What is the US Army?

Haley, how did you get to jump with the Golden Knights?

Sergeant walked in and said; “We have two slots to tandem with the Golden Knights.  Who wants to go?

I was quickest.

82nd Airborne Division Rock Band “Riser Burn”.

U.S. Army Sgt. Daniela Archbold, a culinary specialist, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares the ingredients for the main entrée for the chef competition during All American Week XXIX May 21, 2018, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Four teams, one from each Brigade is tasked with cooking a three-course meal for a panel of judges. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)

A career cook/chef this Sergeant Dining Facility Manager was accepted for training to be a CID (Criminal Investigation Division) investigator.

When you got the power.

MG Christopher LaNeve is at 82nd Airborne Division.January 20 at 1:42 PM  · 


There’s no better way to end the week than by highlighting one of our Paratroopers.

SPC Cristine Steele of @hatchetstrike has consistently worked above and beyond her job as the Computer / Detection Systems Repairer (94F). As a SPC, she prepared her shop for ORS inspections, scoring a 100% on the inspection. She has also served as the @2504pir JBCP subject matter expert, working on keeping communications equipment fully mission capable.

82nd Airborne Division “All American Chorus”

Sergeant Major of the Army attending the 173rd Airborne Brigade Ball in Italy.

And your mother said you couldn’t fly. HA!

Photo by Master Sgt Alexander Burnett Paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division carry bags of baby supplies to families in need during an infant needs drive at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 26, 2021.  The drive was hosted by the 82nd Abn. Div. chaplain’s office who procured baby formula, diapers, juice, baby food and crackers for distribution to Afghan families who are evacuating the country.  The supplies are meant to help sustain the families on their journey.  (U.S. Army photos by Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett, 82nd Airborne Division)

            Life in the Army is not a harder life than civilian life, it is just different.  You wear a uniform, you stand in formations, you are called by your rank, and you salute higher ranking officers.  First some acronyms.  The Army speaks in acronyms.

MOS –  Military Occupational Specialty, i.e., job.  Some examples; 11B=Light Weapons Infantryman.  42A=Human Resource Specialist.  46S=Public Affairs Mass Communications Specialist.  92Y=Unit Supply Specialist.

AIT –  Advanced Individual Training.  The job school right after basic training.

AFCT – Army Combat Fitness Test (physical test)

NCO – Non-Commissioned Officer.  This is how the army refers to sergeants

NCOIC – Non-Commissioned Officer in charge.

CSM – Command Sergeant Major.  The senior enlisted soldier in a command – pay grade E-9.

PT  –  Physical Training  (physical exercise)

The Army Blue uniform is eventually being designated for formal wear only.

These three were the first female graduates of 13F Joint Fire Support Specialist (Forward Observer) AIT in February 2017, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

The new Army Green (called pinks and greens) uniform will become the standard Class A uniform.

The standard work uniform is OCP’s (Operational Camouflage Pattern).  This group is from Company C (the medical company – called “Charlie Med”), 82nd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.  They had just won their EFMB (Expert Field Medical Badge), which is a grueling several day long test for medical personnel.  The EFMB is one of three peace-time “test-out” badges, which can be worn on all uniforms.  There is also the EIB (Expert Infantryman’s Badge), and the new ESB (Expert Soldier Badge).

You get up in the morning, put on your PT clothes and form up in a formation outside.  That formation is usually 6:00 AM to 6:30, depends on the unit. If you are married, you drive into your company area and join that formation for physical exercise.  Everyone in the Army does physical training five days a week.  Regardless of rank, generals and sergeants major, on down, do physical conditioning every weekday. The Army is absolutely serious about personal physical condition.  Every brigade (about 4,000 soldiers, commanded by a full colonel) now has a high-ranking civilian (GS-13) holistic health and fitness director, under whom is a staff of civilian and military Athletic Trainers, Strength Coaches, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Dietitians, as well as Master Fitness trained sergeants, to develop, guide, assist, and monitor the health, wellness, and physical fitness of every single soldier.  This is a cultural change of the life of a soldier, from that of not too many years ago.  The Army calls its Holistic Health and Fitness Program the H2F program.  Not only physical conditioning, but also diet and sleep are monitored.   PT may be outside or in the gym and will usually last an hour to an hour and a half.

PT formation outside.

Always running.

PT inside.

These are cooks doing PT on their own, because of shift work.

After PT, the barracks people go back to their room, married people go home, clean up, get in uniform and get some breakfast.

Enlisted dorms in the 82nd Airborne Division

The 82nd Airborne Division enlisted barracks are not like college dorms, they are better.  They are more like nice two-bedroom apartments.  Soldiers in rank of private through specialist share a “suite”, which is two private bedrooms and a common kitchen and bath.  Sergeants don’t have a suite mate.

Soldiers may arrange and decorate their suite however this wish.  This specialist decorated her kitchen area.

This is the private bedroom of a specialist in the 82nd Airborne Division.  He said that someone higher only looks at their rooms once a month, and then just for cleanliness.

Same guys’ kitchen.

A female paratroopers’ bedroom.  This is the link to her video about her room.  She was a Specialist in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg.

Barracks folks eat free in a dining facility (DFAC) or prepare breakfast in their kitchen in their suite.  Unit dieticians advise on foods and meals.  They can also jump in their car and run to an on post Burger King for a sausage and egg biscuit (might be against the dieticians’ advice).  Married soldiers may eat at home or eat in a DFAC, they are currently paying $4.30 for breakfast, because married soldiers, who do not live in the barracks, are paid a meal allowance.

They don’t normally serve in the dining facility (DFAC), but that was Valentine Day.

Soldiers in combat units, infantry, armor, field artillery, air defense artillery, and combat engineers normally have a work formation to start the day.  That formation is anywhere from 8:30 to 9:00 AM.  They then go to whatever training is on for the day.  Soldiers in these units don’t have a “job”, training (playing army) is their job.

            Most support soldiers, supply, personnel, computer, medical, maintenance, etc., report to their work area (office, motor pool, shop, whatever) around 8:30 to 9:00 AM.

Lunch is an hour, around noon.  Combat units, training in the field, may have hot meals delivered to them, or eat MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat).  Soldiers may eat in a DFAC (free for barracks folks, $6.85 for non-barracks), or go back to their suite and fix lunch, or run to a fast-food place.  Married soldiers, living in on-post family housing, or very close off post, often go home for lunch.

            In most units, the workday ends at 4:30 to 5:00 PM, and they are off until PT formation the next morning.  Fridays, they are off until Monday morning.

Enlisted on post family housing.

Things to do, when off duty, depends on where you’re assigned.  All forts have a main Post Exchange (PX), that’s the Army Air Force Exchange System (AAFES), called the PX, which is like a Walmart supercenter, without the groceries. The groceries are at the Commissary, which is like a giant international supermarket.  There are usually several PX Shoppette’s around the fort.  AAFES (the PX) is a profit making organization.  The profits, from the PX, go to the MWR (Morale Welfare Recreation).  MWR runs all the recreation activities for the post.  The bigger the fort, the more things to do on post.

The fort is like a city, everything you need is there.  The bigger the fort, the more things to do.

            Where you get assigned is a big deal.  It can mean a fun 3 or 4 years, or not.  For example; Fort Leonard Wood is an average medium sized post, about 11,000 active soldiers.  It is a primarily a training post.  For things to do off-duty, it has one indoor and one outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a gym, a bowling alley, a gaming lounge, several baseball/softball fields, several volley/basketball courts, a Golf Course, a recreation area at Lake of the Ozarks, and one Auto Skills Shop (a large garage, with lifts, and all tools which soldiers may use).  For those who want to spend their off-duty time hunting and/or fishing, it is a paradise.

            The biggest and best army post is Fort Bragg (Liberty), North Carolina, the home of the Airborne.  Fort Bragg has around 55,000 soldiers, 70,000 family members living on post, and about 15,000 civilians working on post.  It is an hour from Carolina Beach, two hours from Myrtle Beach, and four hours from mountain ski slopes.  It has two indoor pools, three outdoor pools, multiple gyms and fitness centers, two bowling centers, two large main PX/Commissary complexes, two 18 hole Golf Courses, two large Auto Skills Shops, 4 different running trails or tracks, Smith Lake Recreation Area, and McKeller’s Lodge, which has two rifle/shotgun/pistol ranges, and an archery range, and a lounge, which is a popular lunch spot.  The adjoining city, Fayetteville has one of the largest retired military communities in the country.  Time magazine once called Fayetteville NC the most pro-military town in the country.  The downtown, which used to be bars, has been turned into a walking mall, and the Airborne and Special Operations Museum occupies about two city blocks in downtown Fayetteville.  The bars and strip joints are still there, but they are out on the boulevard.  Stay away from them.

            Even with COVID, there were things to do on weekends.

Female soldiers on Mott Lake on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 3rd, 2020. (Haley Shanks and friend)

Things for soldiers to do when off-duty, has always been a concern.  The Army has the BOSS program (Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers), on all posts.  It is an organized program to come up with activities for lower ranking single enlisted soldiers, run by lower ranking single enlisted soldiers.  They organize trips to the beach, athletic team competition, parties, community service projects, plus many more activities.  When COVID-19 hit, it put a damper on many of those activities.

This is Sergeant Danielle Shortt, a facebook friend of mine.  This picture was clipped from a youtube video of the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus, in which she was the lead singer of “I can’t help falling in love”, which was a tribute to the spouses of the 82nd.

Danielle was the division coordinator for the 82nd’s BOSS program, during her last couple years in the army.

ARMY JOBS:  The Army advertises that it has over 150 different jobs. That’s true, but some are real jobs and some are not. When two soldiers, who have never met, and aren’t in uniform, strike up a conversation, one asks, “What do you do?” The other answers, “I’m an eleven bravo.” The other comes back with, “I’m a thirteen fox, work with you guys all the time.” Each now knows exactly what the other does, but neither has a real “job”, as in going to work at it every day. A “job” in the Army is an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). The first answer, eleven bravo, means 11B Light Weapons Infantryman, the second, thirteen fox, is 13F Joint Fire Support Specialist, which is a forward observer for artillery.

Combat Arms, which is infantry, artillery, armor, combat engineers, and air defense artillery, don’t go to their “job” in the morning, after physical training (PT). They go to training. Whatever that may be that day. The combat arms trains for combat. Infantrymen can study reaction to an ambush, but they can’t train for it until they get ambushed, in the field (in training), they can study company in the attack, but they can’t train for it until they are in the field, facing thick under brush, trying to figure how to be quiet and get in position.  Artillery soldiers may be running crew drills to improve their set and shoot times, for the big guns.  Combat engineers may be building things or blowing things up.

Below is the complete list of army jobs.

MOS/job list.

                                        INFANTRY – Training and schools at Fort Benning, Georgia

11B Infantryman

11C Indirect Fire Infantryman

11X Infantry Recruit

                                    ENGINEERS – Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri                             

12B Combat Engineer

12C Bridge Crewmember

12D Diver

12K Plumber

12M Firefighter

12N Horizontal Construction Engineer

12R Interior Electrician

12T Technical Engineer

12W Carpentry & Masonry Specialist

12Y Geospatial Engineer

                                    FIELD ARTILLERY – Fort Sill, Oklahoma

13B Cannon Crewmember

13D Field Artillery Automated Tactical Data System Specialist

13F Joint Fire Support Specialist 

13J Fire Control Specialist

13M Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)/High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) Crewmember

13P Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) Operational Fire Direction Specialist

13R Field Artillery Firefinder Radar Operator

13T Field Artillery Surveyor/Meteorological Crewmember

13X Field Artillery Computer Systems Specialist

                                    AIR DEFENSE ARTILLERY – Fort Sill, Oklahoma

14E Patriot Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainer

14G Air Defense Battle Management System Operator

14H Air Defense Enhanced Early Warning Operator

14P Air & Missile Defense (AMD) Crewmember

14S Avenger Crewmember

14T Patriot Launching Station Enhanced Operator/Maintainer

14X Space and Missile Defense Operation

                                    AVIATION MAINTENANCE – Fort Eustis, Virginia except 15H

15B Aircraft Powerplant Repairer

15C MQ-1 Operator (Effective 202010)

15D Aircraft Powertrain Repairer

15E Unmanned Aircraft Systems Repairer

15F Aircraft Electrician

15G Aircraft Structural Repairer

15H Aircraft Pneudraulics Repairer – Fort Rucker, Alabama

15J OH-58D Armament/Electrical/Avionics Systems Repairer

15M MQ-1 Repairer (Effective 202010)

15N Avionic Mechanic

15P Aviation Operations Specialist

15Q Air Traffic Control Operator

15R AH-64 Attack Helicopter Repairer

15S OH-58D Helicopter Repairer

15T UH-60 Helicopter Repairer

15U CH-47 Helicopter Repairer

15W Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operator

15Y AH-64D Armament/Electrical/Avionic Systems Repairer

                                    CYBER OPERATIONS – Fort Gordon, Georgia

17C Cyber Operations Specialist  (These are the super Top Secret Computer Hackers)

17E Electronic Warfare Specialist

                                    SPECIAL FORCES (Green Berets) – Fort Bragg, North Carolina

18B Special Forces Weapons Sergeant

18C Special Forces Engineer Sergeant

18D Special Forces Medical Sergeant

18E Special Forces Communications Sergeant

18F Special Forces Assistant Operations & Intelligence Sergeant

18X Special Forces Recruit 

                                    ARMOR – Fort Benning, Georgia

19D Cavalry Scout

19K M1 Armor Crewman

                                    SIGNAL CORPS – Fort Gordon, Georgia

25B Information Technology Specialist 

25H Network Communications Specialist

25S Satellite Communication Systems Operator- Maintainer

25U Signal Support Specialist

                                    JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL’S CORPS (JAG) – Fort Lee, Virginia

27D Paralegal Specialist

                                    MILITARY POLICE – Fort Leonard Wood, MIssouri

31B Military Police

31D CID Special Agent

31E Internment/Resettlement Specialist

31K Military Working Dog (MWD) Handler

                                    MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CORPS – Fort Huachuca, Arizona

35F Intelligence Analyst

35G Geospatial Intelligence Imagery Analyst

35L Counter Intelligence Agent

35M Human Intelligence Collector

35N Signals Intelligence Analyst

35P Cryptologic Linguist

35Q Cryptologic Network Warfare Specialist

35S Signals Collector/Analyst

35T Military Intelligence Systems Maintainer/Integrator

                                    FINANCE CORPS – Fort Jackson, South Carolina

36B Financial Management Technician

                                    ADJUTANT GENERAL’S CORPS – Fort Jackson, South Carolina

42A Human Resources Specialist

                                    US Army MUSIC SCHOOL – Fort Story – Virginia Beach, Virginia

42R Musician

                        DEFENSE INFORMATION SCHOOL (DINFOS) – Fort George G Meade, Maryland

46S Public Affairs Mass Communications Specialist    (Washington, DC)

                        CHAPLAIN CENTER and SCHOOL – Fort Jackson, South Carolina

56M Religious Affairs Specialist  (Chaplain Assistant)

                        MEDICAL CENTER AND SCHOOL – Fort Sam Houston, Texas 

            Some of these are few in numbers, so you would have to wait for a job.  

68A Biomedical Equipment Specialist

68B Orthopedic Specialist

68C Practical Nursing Specialist

68D Operating Room Specialist

68E Dental Specialist

68F Physical Therapy Specialist

68G Patient Administration Specialist

68H Optical Laboratory Specialist

68J Medical Logistics Specialist

68K Medical Laboratory Specialist

68L Occupational Therapy Specialist

68M Nutrition Care Specialist

68N Cardiovascular Specialist

68P Radiology Specialist

68Q Pharmacy Specialist

68R Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist

68S Preventive Medicine Specialist

68T Animal Care Specialist

68U Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) Specialist

68V Respiratory Specialist

68W Combat Medic Specialist

68X Behavioral Health Specialist

68Y Eye Specialist

                        CBRN CENTER AND SCHOOL – Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri

74D Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear (CBRN) Specialist

                                    TRANSPORTATION CORPS – Different places

88H Cargo Specialist – Fort Eustis, VA

88K Watercraft Operator – Fort Eustis, VA

88L Watercraft Engineer – Fort Eustis, VA

88M Motor Transport Operator – (Truck Driver) – Fort Leonard Wood, MO

88N Transportation Management Coordinator – Fort Eustis, VA

                        ORDNANCE CORPS AND SCHOOL – Fort Lee, Virginia except 89A

89A Ammunition Stock Control & Accounting Specialist – Fort Sill, Oklahoma

89B Ammunition Specialist

89D Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist

                        ORDNANCE CORPS AND SCHOOL – Fort Lee, Virginia -Except 91A, 91L, 91M

91A M1 Abrams Tank System Maintainer – Fort Benning, Georgia

91B Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic

91C Utilities Equipment Repairer

91D Tactical Power Generation Specialist

91E Allied Trades Specialist

91F Small Arms/Towed Artillery Repairer

91G Fire Control Repairer

91H Track Vehicle Repairer

91J Quartermaster & Chemical Equipment Repairer

91L Construction Equipment Repairer – Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri

91M Bradley Fighting Vehicle System Maintainer – Fort Benning, Georgia

91P Artillery Mechanic

91S Stryker Systems Maintainer

                        QUARTERMASTER CORPS – Fort Lee, Virginia

92A Automated Logistical Specialist

92F Petroleum Supply Specialist

92G Culinary Specialist

92L Petroleum Laboratory Specialist

92M Mortuary Affairs Specialist

92R Parachute Rigger

92S Shower & Laundry Specialist (S&L SPC)

92W Water Treatment Specialist

92Y Unit Supply Specialist

                                    ELECTRONICS AND MISSILE REPAIR – See below

            Some of these are few in numbers, and long AIT’s 20 to 30 weeks.  Not always available.

94A Land Combat Electronic Missile System Repairer – Fort Lee

94D Air Traffic Control Equipment Repairer – Fort Lee

94E Radio Equipment Repairer – Fort Gordon

94F Computer Detection Systems Repairer – Fort Gordon

94H Test, Measurement, & Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) Maintenance Support Specialist – Ft Lee

94M Radar Repairer – Ft Lee

94P Multiple Launch Rocket System Repairer – Redstone Arsenal, Alabama

94R Avionic & Survivability Equipment Repairer – Fort Gordon

94S Patriot System Repairer  – Half at Fort Lee – Half at Fort Sill

94T Short Range Air Defense System Repairer  – Ft Lee

MOS 46S – Public Affairs Mass Communication Specialist.  I’ve long considered this to be one of the best jobs in the Army, for the folks who can do it.  Your English grammar (language arts), must be near perfect, as well as speaking ability.  It takes an outgoing, aggressive personality.  They film and interview, infantry grunts in the field, Colonels in their office, and Generals on the field.  A lot of work on their own, with freedom of movement.  The AIT for 46S is the 26 week Mass Communications Foundations Course at the Defense Information School (DINFOS), at Fort Meade, Maryland (Washington, DC).  It is attended by all the uniformed services and civilians.  Perdue University (Perdue Global) is awarding almost 60 semester hours for that course, so their already half way to a bachelor’s degree, when they finish AIT.  It requires a 5 year enlistment.  Anyone, in this job, should be able to complete at least a bachelor’s degree in that 5 years.

Army Public Affairs Mass Communications Specialist MOS 46S (photojournalist) filming training.  To get the story, you have to be there.

  It has a high reenlistment rate, and why not – be a journalist for 20 years, retire at 38 as an experienced journalist. That is exactly what Teresa Coble has done.  Teresa Coble enlisted in the army in 2001, at age 18, to be a Public Affairs Specialist, with the airborne option.  She has had assignments all over the airborne community at Fort Bragg, taught at the Defense Information School (DINFOS), was First Sergeant of the Armed Forces Network Japan in Tokyo, and has just retired from the army, as a Sergeant Major E-9, with a degree in journalism, and 20 years experience, and has a very good job.

Sergeant Major Teresa Coble

Sergeant Major (Retired) Teresa Coble.

This picture of Kissta Feldner got my attention.  She graduated from high school in 2009 and enlisted to be a Public Affairs Specialist, with the airborne option.  She was assigned to the Public Affairs Office, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.  She made parachute jumps with the infantry troops, with her camera, writing about their training exercises.  She took photos, from horseback, at Little Big Horn, Montana.  She interviewed Queen Elizabeth’s Guards, while in Holland, covered her Brigade’s humanitarian mission to Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010, and taught photo journalism to the Iraqi army in 2011. 

Vince and Kissta DiGregorio

She met and married another soldier, and today she is Sergeant First Class Kissta DiGregorio, NCOIC of the Public Affairs Office of the 1st Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg.  Also, a mother, with a family.

MOS 25B – Information Technology Specialist.  These are the computer people. They setup and maintain computer networks and systems. Help people with computer problems, including swapping components, such as drives and motherboards, and routers, and keep all the computer systems operating.   This is, without doubt, one of the best Army jobs that transfers directly to lucrative civilian jobs, because the Army will turn you into an IT professional.  The AIT is 20 weeks long at the Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia.  It requires a Secret Security Clearance, and 5 year, plus training, enlistment.  Five years, plus 10 weeks basic, plus 20 weeks AIT = 5 years, 30 weeks enlistment contract.  Grads of the course say that if you’re a computer person before enlisting, it is easier.  Said some who weren’t struggled.  Again these people should have at least a bachelor’s degree and a stack of IT certifications, at the end of their enlistment.

About civilian education; Civilian education is pushed hard in the Army.  Every semester hour is worth two promotion points to sergeant and staff sergeant.  Every post has an Education Center.  The Ed Center will help convert AIT classes to semester hours, and you can CLEP test out on several subjects, for free, at the Ed Ctr, plus they provide study material, before you take the test.  Army Tuition Assistance will pay for 15 semester hours per year for evening or online classes toward a bachelor’s or masters degree.   With the new accelerated online degree programs, a soldier, whose job allows him or her the time, can have a bachelor’s degree, by the end of a three or four year enlistment.  Just depends on how hard they want to work, to get it.

MOS 91E Allied Trades Specialist.  This job combines the jobs of welder and machinist.  The AIT is 19 weeks at Fort Lee, Virginia.  The first 8 weeks are learning all the CNC (computerized numerical control) machining devises and operations.  The second 8 weeks is all types of welding.  The last three weeks are Army Combat and Tactical Equipment, Titanium Welding, Depleted Uranium, and Introduction to Battle Damage Assessment and Repair Operations.  Before leaving AIT, they are tested and become Nationally Certified Welders, plus about a dozen CNC machining operation certifications.  Grads say those going to combat units get more real experience in repairing and making parts, tools, and weird devises somebody dreams up.  There are 91E’s in every forward support company with the combat battalions.  It takes a 5 year enlistment.

A 91E in his shop in the 82nd Airborne Division.

A 91E fabricating something?

MOS 91B Wheeled Vehicle Repairer.  To sit for the test to become an ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) Certified Automotive Technician, two years of tech school plus two years of experience is required.  An Army 91B who has completed the 13 week AIT and has two years performance as a 91B may sit for the test.  However, comments from former soldiers indicate that a lot of extra study is required to pass the test.  The AIT is 13 weeks at Fort Lee, Virginia.  It takes a 3 year, plus training enlistment.  About 3 years, 23 weeks.  A 91B Staff Sergeant with six years in the army may apply to become a Warrant Officer, and be in charge of a motor pool.  That is currently Jace Gieck’s goal.

Mechanics MOS 91B at work.  These guys are in B Company 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.  They call themselves the “Weasels”.

MOS 12Y Geospatial Engineer.  Geospatial technologies is a term used to describe the range of modern tools used in geographic mapping and analysis of the Earth and its population.  In the Army, Geospatial Engineers are trained and become experts in GIS (geographic information systems).  One of the primary tools is a computer program called ArcGIS, through which geographic information is collected from satellite imagery, drones, the National Geospatial Agency, the Army Geospatial Center, photos and videos from troops in the field, and many other sources to produce very detailed 2D and 3D geographic maps to help commanders visualize the battlefield.  They also support civilian operations for disaster relief and Homeland Security.  These people can walk straight into a very good paying civilian job.  There is a huge government geospatial center in St Louis.  The AIT is 18 weeks at Fort Leonard Wood, and requires a 4 year enlistment.

Army geospatial engineer MOS 12Y at work.

MOS 88M Motor Transport Operator. These are truck drivers of 5 ton trucks and above.  Unit soldiers drive the smaller stuff. There are a gazillion truck drivers, it is almost always available, for someone who wants to get in the Army immediately.  If you get the airborne option, you’ll go to Fort Bragg, Italy or Alaska.  In those assignments, you work hard and spend some overtime doing driver maintenance, preventive maintenance checks and paperwork on your truck.  It can be a boring job in some small posts.  The AIT is 7 weeks at Fort Leonard Wood.  They do learn to drive a semi tractor-trailer in AIT.  When leaving the army, the soldier only needs his or her company commander’s signature, and they get a Missouri Class A CDL, with only taking the written test, not the driving.

M1083 5 ton truck

M915 semi tractor with 40 foot container

These are M1120 HEMTT’s (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck) in the 82nd Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, with load handling systems.

MOS 92G Culinary Specialist.  If you enjoy cooking and think you would like to cook for a living, be a chef in a restaurant, or manage a restaurant, becoming an Army Cook might be of benefit to you.  There was a time when I would never have recommended this, but now they can receive civilian certification as a chef.  They wear black trousers and a white chef jacket, while on duty.  They have competitions for chef of the quarter, and large army posts have annual installation culinary competitions.  Then there is the annual Military Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee, Virginia, which has competitors from all the services, National Guard and Reserves.  The Pentagon has its own TV channel for military personnel.  The cooking show “The Grill Sergeants” with military chefs, is one the most popular shows.  There are no more “mess halls”, now there are Dining Facilities (DFAC).  These are large, consolidated facilities, with the latest equipment and technology, and offer a wide variety in their menus, because soldiers are no longer bound to eat in “their” DFAC, they can eat in any DFAC, which has created a competition between DFAC’s on the same post.  College graduates are enlisting specifically to be a cook, because they want the training and experience in preparing and feeding in large volumes, and they want the Culinary Chef Certification. The AIT is eight weeks and two days at Fort Lee, Virginia, and takes a three year enlistment.

These don’t necessarily translate to civilian jobs but they are good jobs in the army.

MOS 42A Human Resource Specialist.  This is a desk job.  Like all soldiers, they still do PT in the morning, they take the ACFT once or twice a year, qualify with their rifle once a year, and go through a gas chamber once a year, and if they are airborne they get to go jump out of airplanes, at least once every three months.  If they are in a combat battalion, they will probably jump more, but their job is behind a desk and a computer.  This is not advertised as a brainy job, but it is.  In print, the regulations covering this job are several feet high and the Integrated Pay and Personnel System – Army (IPPS-A), to which the army is currently converting, is a huge complicated system to learn. They are the face to face people for every personnel action affecting individual soldiers.  Promotion, assignments, awards, schools, emergency leave, whatever.  Every piece of paper in their in-box may, at that point in time, be the most important thing in some soldier’s life.  This is not a fast promotion job, probably four years to sergeant, but they do have the time to accumulate college hours, which translates to promotion points.  However, it is a good job, they work in S-1 (the Admin staff section) shops close to the commander and the CSM, and they solve problems for both soldiers and commanders.  It is also a good army career field.  The AIT is 8 weeks at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Human Resource Specialist MOS 42A Sergeant Isabel Giron at work at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels, Germany.

When a 42A goes to the field, they are still behind a desk and a computer.

MOS 92Y Unit Supply Specialist.  This is one of the most under rated jobs in the Army, because it is one of the most important.  The mundane title “Unit Supply Specialist”, doesn’t hack it – these are the Army material managers, responsible for ordering, stocking, issuing, and maintaining control of all material and equipment.  They are the logisticians.  This is a large army career field.  It doesn’t translate directly to many civilian jobs, but the government and the reserves hire many civilians, who have this training and experience.  For career soldiers who complete their education before they retire from the army, it does translate to good jobs in the logistics field. It is not necessarily an easy job, but it is a highly respected one.  When company commanders change, there is an inventory of everything in that company that doesn’t breath and eat.  If something is missing, the outgoing commander may have to pay for it, at the very least.  The Supply Sergeant and his or her assistant are the controllers of all that stuff, which makes the Supply Sergeant an extremely important position.  People in this job need to be 100% honest, smart and hard working.

The video below is Sergeant Penny Boyle who made the video of her barracks room.  Her youtube handle is “itspennyduh”.  She is pro youtuber.  She enlisted to be a Unit Supply Specialist, MOS 92Y.  Her initial assignment, after AIT, was to Korea.  While there she was promoted to specialist.  When she checked online where she was scheduled to go on her next assignment (every soldier can do that), she was scheduled to go to a post in Texas.  She didn’t want that, so she volunteered for airborne school.  She was sent to the 3 week airborne school then to the 82nd Airborne Division.  That is when she made the dorm room video.  She was assigned as the supply assistant in a Cavalry Troop.  Her unit deployed to Kuwait (Iraq).  Her Supply Sergeant left (don’t know why or how), so she was strapped with doing the job, which she apparently did very well. She had been in the army three years when she was promoted to Sergeant and made the unit Supply Sergeant. The position actually calls for one rank higher – Staff Sergeant.

MOS 27D Paralegal.  This is also a solid desk job.  It is a good army job, but not like a civilian paralegal.  It is strictly military law.  They prepare administrative punishments, courts martial, etc, and advise commanders on military law, the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice).

An Army Paralegal MOS 27D hard at work.

MOS 74D CBRN (Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear) Specialist.   –  This can be a fast promotion to Sergeant.  Trains at Fort Leonard Wood, and every company, in the Army, is authorized a sergeant 74D to maintain the NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) Room.  National Hazmat Certification in AIT.  They maintain and use radiation and chemical detection equipment, and the Personal Protective Equipment (gas masks, space suits, & rubber boots), and train their units on how to protect themselves.  I have mixed feelings about this job.  In a chemical company or a combat unit, this person will probably be doing actual CBRN training, in a non-combat unit – maybe not.  My advice would be to definitely go airborne, which gives a much better chance of doing the actual work.  The AIT is 11 weeks at Fort Wood, and brainy, grads say study, study.

MOS 35F Army Intelligence Analyst.  This is also a fairly fast promotion to Sergeant, normally a desk job, gathering information, and putting together briefings and analyst reports.  The AIT is 16 weeks at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.  It is a very relaxed AIT, army discipline wise, but brainy.  Graduates caution anyone going that you have to study.  Surprisingly, there are civilian jobs for these people.  FBI, CIA, DEA, ATF, Border Patrol, Homeland Security and others, plus state and large city police use intelligence analysts.  This is a very unique skill.  These soldiers tend to associate with themselves, probably because most of what they work on is classified, so they can’t talk about it around anyone else. This is a desk job in the intel staff sections of headquarters.

I have to end with my favorite – the INFANTRY. MOS 11X.  I started out in the infantry, then started getting “good” jobs.  As I went up in rank, I kept going back to the infantry.

The infantry has no relationship to the civilian world but if you want to have an experience that no other soldier can have, because they all support the infantry, then the infantry is the place. It is the physically the hardest, most strenuous, foot sore, back aching, greatest bad ass job in the world. You have to have endurance, and you never quit.  There is also another issue, you have to be honest with yourself and everyone else.  If you’re not, you will be soon.  An infantry platoon of 40 soldiers, will spend days, sometimes weeks, and during deployment, months sharing foxholes, MRE’s, water, canteens. razors, socks, ammo, and stories.  They support they guy who feeling down, razz the guy who screws up, and pull pranks on the guy who is too proud of himself.  And will put their life on the line to cover your back.  Any BS a new platoon member brings with him soon dissolves.  Everybody is just who they are.  Maybe that’s why I and thousands of other former grunts and current grunts love the infantry, you learn things about each other that no one else knows, including family.  You share the worst of times and the best of times.

Military pay is established, by law, every year in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is passed each fall to fund the Department of Defense.  The pay charts change every January 1st, with raises (or not) calculated by the increase in the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which is published quarterly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to reflect changes in total employment compensation.  Traditionally, in August the President proposes military pay increases either based on the ECI or not, with justification, if different.  Congress has the final say, and for the past several years, military pay raises have adhered to the ECI, regardless of which party was in power.  This year saw a 4.6% pay raise on January 1st, last year it was 2.7%.

The military pays only by direct deposit, twice monthly.  Half on the 1st and half on the 15th, unless those dates fall on a weekend or holiday, then it is paid the day prior.

Pay grade E-1 has two rates.  One less than four months, and one over.  When a person is processing into the Army, at the reception unit, he or she is given a debit card with $350 on it.  That is to purchase items necessary in basic training.  That is an advanced pay.  It will be deducted from the first deposit to the soldiers’ account.

During in processing SGLI, Servicemembers Group Life Insurance, will be started.  It costs 6 cents per thousand, up to $400,000, which is $25. (24 + 1).  The soldier can take less in increments of $50,000.  This is for a single person.

Base pay E-1 under 4 months = $1,773.00  ½ = $886.50

                        Deductions:   Social Security       –     54.96

                                                Medicare                –     12.85

                                                Federal Income Tax-    31.00

                                                Missouri Income Tax-     8.00

                                                SGLI (200,000)     –      13.00

                                    Net Deposit  =            766.69

The first deposit is screwed up, because people rarely enlist on the first day of a month, plus the $350, for the debit card, will be withdrawn.  After that, this is about the amount deposited in the trainee’s checking account twice monthly.

After 60 days in the military, the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) kicks in.  It is like a 401K or an IRA.  The army contributes 1% of a soldiers base pay monthly to his or her TSP.  The soldier can contribute as much as 5% of their base pay, monthly.  If they do, then then the government matches it, so 10% of your base pay is going into your TSP, monthly.  This is a great thing, it is aside from retired pay.  If a soldier retires after 20 years in service, they immediately start drawing 40% of their base, as retired pay.  After 30 years, it is 60%, plus they still have their TSP.  Soldiers are taught how and get to manage their own TSP accounts.  There are 5 or 6 different plans, in which to invest their money.  Some are very safe, but with very little gain. A couple are risky, with the possibility of greater gain. One plan invests in the stock market in large and medium sized companies, and it has consistently produced an average gain of around 10%, for the past 30 years.  Civil Service government workers have had TSP for many years.  Using today’s figures, a soldier enlisting in the army, and maintaining the best plan in his or her TSP, and retiring in pay grade E-9 after 30 years, could have close to one million dollars in that TSP.  This is a great thing, plus for those who don’t stay in the military, it can be rolled into an IRA or a 401K, when they leave the service.

After 4 months, soldiers are automatically advanced to the over 4 month E-1 pay grade.  That is usually the first week or two of AIT (Advanced Individual Training) i.e., job training.  There is practically no opportunity to spend money in basic training, so the soldier should have over $4,000 in his or her checking account upon graduating from basic.  Depending on what training and where, but there are usually plenty of opportunities to spend money in AIT, but you don’t have to.

 E-1 over 4 months $1,917.60  ½ =    958.80

Deductions:   Social Security           –   59.45

                        Medicare                    –   13.90

                        Fed Income Tax         –   39.00

                        MO Income Tax         –   11.00

                        SGLI                           –   13.00

                        TSP                           –   47.94

   Net Deposit               =                   774.51   twice monthly

            After another two months, soldiers are automatically advanced to pay grade E-2, which is                 $2,149.20       ½  =                   $1,074.60

              Deductions:           Social Security            –      66.62

                                                Medicare                     –      15.58

                                                Fed Income Tax          –      51.00

                                                MO Income tax         –      17.00

                                                SGLI                            –      13.00

                                                TSP                              –       53.73   

                      Net Deposit              =                            857.67  twice monthly

            If you count, you will see that around $8,500 will have been deposited in a soldiers’ checking account, during that probably six months in training, without much opportunity to spend it.  Also, at six months soldiers are eligible to be promoted to E-3.  Normal time is one year, but exceptions can be made back to six months

            So, now let’s do a person, who has completed training including airborne (jump) school, and is a PFC E-3, on jump status, at a permanent station, in his or her own room, with their car outside in the parking lot.

                                    Base Pay =  $2,259.90  

Parachute Pay is an extra                 150.00

                                                           2,409.90       ½   =      1,204.95

Deductions:                     Social Security                      –     74.71                    

                                                Medicare                                  –     17.47

                                                Fed Income Tax                    –     66.00

                                                MO Income tax                     –     24.00

                                                SGLI                                        –     13.00

                                                TSP                                      –      56.50  (TSP base pay )

                                    Net Deposit                                            953.27     twice monthly

                                                 =    $1,906.54 monthly – room free, meals free

            $1,906.54 X 12 = $22,878.48 / 52 = $439.97  That’s an average of $440 a week take home pay.  Plus, no rent, all meals in the Dining Facility are free, free health care, plus 15 free semester hours of college, per year, if you want to take classes.

Just for kicks, lets look at someone, just out of high school, starting work at Quaker or the Distribution Center at $14.00 per hour on a 40 hour week.

                                                40 hours @ $14.00 = $560.00

                                                Social Security        –      34.72

                                                Medicare                 –        8.12

                                                Fed Income Tax      –      31.00

                                                Missouri Income Tax –    11.00

                                                Health Insurance      –     25.00

                                                IRA (3%)                  –      16.80

                                                Net pay check         =    433.36

Promotion to Specialist E-4 can be at two years, but can be at 18 months.  Most good, hard working soldiers make it around 18 – 20 months.  This is a Specialist E-4 over two years in service –  base pay =  $2,503.50

                   Parachute   pay =       150.00

                   Total    =                  2,653.50  ½ =   1,326.75

Deductions:                     Social Security        –     82.26

                                                Medicare                  –     19.24

                                                Fed Income Tax     –      82.00

                                                MO Income Tax     –      29.00

                                                SGLI                       –      13.00

                                                TSP                         –       62.59       

                                       Net Deposit                      1,038.66     x 2 = 2,077.32 monthly.

            2,077.32 x 12 = 24,927.84 / 52 = $479.38 average weekly take home pay.

            Let’s say, in that two years, the civilian is up to $15 an hour;

            40 hours @ 15.00   =         $600.00

                    Social Security        –      37.20

                  Medicare                  –        8.70

                   Fed Income Tax      –      36.00

                   Missouri Income Tax –  13.00

                   Health Insurance      –     25.00

                  IRA (3%)                  –      18.00

                  Net pay check         =    462.10

            Promotion to Sergeant E-5 is different with different jobs, but someone working diligently toward the promotion to Sergeant, can usually make it in just over three years.  In some support jobs, that means accumulating as many college semester hours as they can, plus high rifle marksmanship scores, and high ACFT scores.  Sergeant E-5 with over three years service base pay =         $3,055.20

                                        Parachute pay =       150.00

                                         Total                =   3,205.20  ½ =  1,602.60

                                                Social Security                      –     99.36

                                                Medicare                                  –     23.24

                                                Fed Income Tax                     –   113.00 

                                                MO Income Tax                   –      43.00

                                                SGLI                                       –      13.00

                                                TSP                                        –      76.38

                                                Net Deposit                             1,234.62

$1,234.62 X 2 = $2,469.24 X 12 = $29,630.88 / 52 = $569.82 average take home pay per week. 


Now let’s say this sergeant has over four years in, is married and living off post.

                             Base Pay           =   $3,199.20                                                                                                  Parachute pay                  150.00                                                                                                           =         3,349.20 / 2 = 1,674.60

                                                   Social Security                      –    103.83

                                                   Medicare                                   –     24.28

(Now married filing joint)Fed Income Tax                 –     52.00 

                                                  MO Income Tax                   –         18.00

                                                  SGLI                                      –           13.00

                                                  TSP                                            –      79.98

                                                                        Net                         1,383.51

                                                            Plus ½ BAS                         226.28

                                                            Plus ½ BAH                        765.00

                                                     Net pay twice monthly =2,374.79                                    That’s $4,749.58 monthly or $56,994.96 annual take home pay, which with free health care for the family, puts this sergeant, with four years in the army, at about the same pay as a civilian with an $80,000 to $85,000 salary


            Some people enlist in the Army and literally fall in love with it.  They are proud of what they do and they are good at it, but being a smart person, they see things that they would do differently, if they had the influence to change them.  They would like to be an officer.  Officers are the managers, enlisted soldiers are the worker-bees.

            The Army actually takes active-duty soldiers into the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point.  They cannot have reached their 23rd birthday by the time classes start their freshman year.  All the same things count, such as ACT score, as if applying from high school, but if they weren’t in the top 10% of their class, weren’t a star athlete, nor a class leader, but they have been an outstanding soldier for a couple years, they may very well be selected, if they apply.

            Another route toward a commission as an officer is the Army’s “Green to Gold” program.  They must have over two years in service, in pay grade E-4 or above, have at least two years college (only two years left).  There are three variations to the program, but basically they leave active duty, go to college, take ROTC, finish, get commissioned, and come back on active duty as a Second Lieutenant.

            There is also Officer Candidate School (OCS).  A person with a bachelor’s degree (any degree) can enlist for OCS.  They go through basic, then three months of OCS and are commissioned.  An enlisted soldier, who has obtained a bachelor’s degree (any), and has been in the army less than six years, can apply for OCS.

            A Warrant Officer is a technician in his or her field.  The normal route for non-pilot warrants is, Staff Sergeants with 6 to 8 years in their field, apply and if accepted, attend a school before they are warranted in their field.


            I – Study the ASVAB.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the ASVAB.  It is the military IQ test and stays in a soldier’s records forever.   Here are some examples of ASVAB score requirements for various jobs;

            12Y Geospatial Engineer –                                           GT 100         ST 100

            42A Human Resource Specialist –                                GT 107

            46S Public Affairs Mass Communications Specialist – GT 107

            92Y Unit Supply Specialist –                                         CL 90

            GT – is General Technical.  It a composite of the following tests; Arithmetic Reasoning, – Paragraph Comprehension, – Word Knowledge.

            CL – is Clerical and comprises the same tests, plus Mathematics Knowledge.

Those four tests, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge, (English and Math) should be reviewed and practiced over and over and over.  They also make up the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test), which places enlistees in categories, by score.

            ST – is Skilled Technical, which is; General Science, – Mathematics Knowledge, – Mechanical Comprehension, – Paragraph Comprehension, – Word Knowledge.

            To be really competitive, in the Army, the GT and CL scores should be in the high 120’s to mid-130’s.  There are several sites with practice ASVAB tests. A good simple one is ASVAB Practice Test – 2021 Update | 100% FREE Practice ASVAB Tests (asvabpracticetestonline.com).   

            DO NOT EVEN TAKE A PRACTICE ASVAB TEST IN A RECRUITER’S OFFICE, UNITL YOU HAVE STUDIED IT.  On the very first visit to a recruiter’s office, after the questions about high school, trouble with the law, and drugs, you will be asked to take a simple practice ASVAB test there in their office.  How you do on that practice determines how they talk to you, from then on.  If you score really high, they will be all smiles, with questions like; “What would you like to do, in the army?  You can get about anything you want that is available.”  People who don’t do well on that practice test will be guided and encouraged to take the only jobs, for which they qualify.

II.  Get in shape.  Start running.  Start slow with a shuffle, but going through the motions of a jog.  Speed will come over time.  Build until you have a rhythm, in which you can run for hours.  Get a pair of current army boots, and start walking – a lot.  Then carry a rucksack.  Keep increasing the rucksack weight until you are carrying about 40 pounds for about 3 hours.  A big problem for women in basic training is foot blisters, and stress fractures of the feet and legs, because they are not used to the prolonged walking, in boots, while carrying heavy loads.  Pushups, situps, pullups all you can do.  Build – don’t hurt yourself, at the start.

III.  If you’re not used to shooting a rifle, it would help to do some.  The drill sergeants will teach proper rifle handling and marksmanship, but some familiarity would help.  I was the Senior Drill Sergeant of a basic training company.  We had a girl who could not zero (that’s a 25-meter range) her rifle.  The rifle was OK, and she appeared to be doing everything correctly, but she was all over the target.  Finally, I laid down in front of her.  The second before she pulled the trigger, she closed both eyes.  Squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk or anticipate the rifle firing.


            AtMEPS, (Military Entrance Processing Station) you take a physical exam (make sure you remind them that you are going airborne, because it requires an extra part of the exam), you take the ASVAB test that counts, after the test you are interviewed by a counselor, who will go over your enlistment contract.  At that point the counselor may offer you a different job (they may have just received a requirement for a particular job, for which you qualify), stick to the job you have researched, and decided upon.

            When you agree with the contract, right job, airborne option included, there is a swearing-in ceremony, which family and friends may attend.  They can’t be with you throughout MEPS, but they can attend the swearing-in ceremony. You then sign your contract.  Mom will cry, Dad will try to suppress the tear in his eye, and your emotion will be split between the sadness of leaving home, and the excitement of the upcoming adventure.  The excitement of the adventure usually wins.

At that point, you are on your own.  You have left home, and you are self-supporting.  You’re going to have people telling you what to do for awhile but you are on your own. 

The trip to the Army will be either by bus or plane, depends on where you are going for basic training.  The first stop is 4 to 7 days at reception.  Your records are prepared, pay arranged to your checking account, eyes checked, teeth checked, shots, uniforms.  Make sure the boots you are issued fit.  There is a local story of a girl who was issued a pair of boots, size 7.  Both boots were marked size 7, but one was much larger than the other.  Not knowing anything about the army, she was afraid to tell anyone, and went through a lot of misery in basic training.  Any drill sergeant I ever knew, would have done whatever was necessary to get her boots corrected.  The time at reception is necessary, not fun.

The day you arrive at your basic training company, there is no longer a hoard of screaming drill sergeants in your face.  You go through a couple team building exercises, do a couple of ACFT exercises, and watch a demonstration of what you will be able to do at the end of basic.  The first couple weeks, you are issued field gear, which must be cleaned and turned in at the end of basic, you have a lot of classes, you learn how to stand, turn, march, etc.  Then you go to the confidence course and go rappelling off of a 40-foot tower.  Your platoon all knows each other by then and you start having fun.  Some have said that basic training was the time of their lives.  Don’t misunderstand, it is still physically hard, it is 12 to 14 hour days, six days a week, but you will get stronger throughout basic. 

Graduation from basic is a big deal, you are then a soldier.  You don’t know anything yet, but you’re a soldier.  Some AIT’s are like college in uniform, according to some, while others are said to be better than basic, but you still know that you are a trainee.



Universities.com names over 250 colleges and universities in the United States, that offer degrees in Logistics, Materials, and Supply Chain Management.  This a huge field.  Everything bought and sold, must be packaged, transported, stored, inventoried, accounted for, and distributed.  For those systems to operate smoothly, they must be closely managed, at every level.  Visible examples are Walmart Distribution Centers, Lowes, Home Depot, Menards, the big grocery chains, and now, of course, Amazon.

            The Air Force has Material Managers, and the Navy has Material and Maintenance Managers.  US Army soldiers who do those same jobs in the Army carry the very mundane title of “Unit Supply Specialist”.  That title may conjure up images of sitting in a supply room handing out boots and bed linen, but there is nothing dull or mundane about this Army job.  The Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 92Y is Unit Supply Specialist, one of the most important and sensitive jobs in the Army.

            This is an update and consolidation of two previously published stories, “Army Supply”, and “Army Enlisted Logistician”, so don’t look for them – they are here.  I changed the title in an attempt to attract more readers to army supply.  It is one of the best, most respected jobs in the Army.  It’s not an easy job, it is busy, brainy, and interesting – makes time fly.

            Property accountability is one of the most sensitive subjects in the Army.  Funding the military is a big deal and whether the item is a 9 million dollar tank or a 6 million dollar helicopter or a $200 set of tools, it represents money.  The basic unit in the Army is the company.  Every soldier, regardless of rank or position is assigned to a “company”.  A company normally has 100 to around 200 soldiers, and is usually commanded by a Captain, with a senior enlisted First Sergeant.  All equipment, material, weapons, fuel, food, etc, is assigned to a company.  Every non expendable item “owned” by a company is recorded in that unit’s property book (now automated).  Army Company Commanders are personally responsible for everything “owned” by that company.

            When an officer assumes command of a company, there is a complete inventory of all equipment, material, weapons, and vehicles, everything in the company that does not breathe and eat.  When that officer leaves that command, another inventory is conducted, and if there are any items missing, that simply can’t be accounted for, that officer may have to pay for them, at the very least.  Possibly a bad mark on his or her officer efficiency report, and in the worst case may be charged with dereliction of duty, or theft.  The individual in that officers’ company that manages all material and equipment is the Supply Sergeant.  When the Supply Sergeant requests an item, he or she is spending money.

Company “laying out” everything for a Change of Command Inventory.

During my time in the Army, I was in many different companies, infantry rifle companies, battalion headquarters companies, a division headquarters company, personnel company, signal company, Army headquarters company, Special Forces training Group company, Special Forces company, and basic training companies as a drill sergeant.  In all those companies, the most important and sensitive position, after the First Sergeant, was the Supply Sergeant.  The Supply Sergeant in most companies is a Staff Sergeant, with five to ten years in service.  The Supply Sergeant also has a Specialist assistant, which is often the first job to which a newly trained 92Y is assigned.  The Army’s official description of the specialist assistant position is that he or she is an assistant to the Supply Sergeant, not an Assistant Supply Sergeant.  In reality, as soon as that person has a grasp of the operation, and know what they are doing, they become the Assistant Supply Sergeant.  For the past few years, 92Y’s have been making Sergeant in two to three years.

The nine week AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for 92Y covers basic procedures, but a 92Y is a 92Y and can be assigned to an infantry company, or aviation, or signal, or chemical, or medical, or anything, anywhere from a basic training battalion at Fort Leonard Wood to a Special Forces company where ever they may be, to a Garrison company at Fort Meade, Maryland (Washington, DC).  Learning to be a supply specialist just starts with AIT.  Everything in the Army that doesn’t breathe, flows through the supply system.  Everything!  Socks, boots, hand grenades, tanks, helicopters, rifles, bolts, nuts and bacon.  It has to be requested, stored, issued, and much of it returned.  The volume and the value of all that “stuff” is mind boggling.

Staff Sergeant Adrian Santamaria, Supply Sergeant for Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

In the past few years, the Army has gone from a multitude of supply procedures to the Global Combat Support System – Army (GCSS-Army).  It is one program that allows everyone in the system to “see” everything, items and money, from factory to foxhole.  To do that, the Army has gone to commercial SAP software.  SAP is a huge and, can be, complicated system.  There have been instances where large civilian companies, implementing SAP, have had to completely cease operations, during the implementation process, because they didn’t anticipate the time and learning curve necessary to implement SAP.  The Army has accomplished this incrementally, over the past several years.

AESIP = Army Enterprise Systems Integrated Programs

     The Supply Soldier who is on top of everything and has it under control and keeps everyone supplied with what they need is the unit hero, if not, he or she is in trouble.  Supply people in some companies, such as Armor or Aviation, manage material and equipment valued in the tens, and sometimes in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  There have been incidents of supply soldiers going to prison, for stealing from the government, because they were handling all that expensive material, and they thought they were smart enough to steal and cover it up, so that no one would find out, but they do find out. 

            In July 2020, a supply professional who had worked himself up to becoming a Supply Technician, a Chief Warrant Officer, was sentenced to 25 months in prison, and ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution to the government, after he was convicted of stealing from the government.  Over a two and half year period, he stole 43 night vision goggles, valued at around two million dollars.  He was selling them through government surplus outlets, and deleting them from the unit property book, forging signatures, and adjusting the inventory, but with GCSS-Army, they were still in the system.  When CID discovered the items for sale, they were identified.

            If you are not a smart, hard-working, 100 percent honest individual, don’t pick this job.

                 Things are not as tightly controlled in combat, where everything is expendable.  When I went to Vietnam in 1966, I, as did every soldier arriving in country, processed through the 90th Replacement Battalion at Long Binh, about 20 miles from Saigon.  The Supply Sergeant of the 90th Replacement Battalion, Staff Sergeant (SSG) Britt, had been the supply sergeant of a company I had been in at Fort Bragg.  His houch area (a houch was a tent, usually a medium (16’ x 32’) with pallet flooring (concrete if lucky), and sand bag walls outside, was much nicer than any around it.  He had a full size refrigerator, a stereo and a table with a hot plate burner.  I ask where he got all of that stuff.  He said; “You remember Specialist Smith that was my assistant at Bragg, well he went to flight school and became a helicopter pilot.  He walked in here one day and asked if I could get him some jungle fatigues and boots.  I told him that I could get them, but it wouldn’t be easy, I ask how many he wanted.  He wanted three sets of jungle fatigues and two pair of jungle boots, then he asked what it would cost him.  I told him it would cost him that grease gun (small .45 cal machinegun) on his shoulder.  I was kidding, but he just handed it to me.  I traded the grease gun for a .357 magnum revolver, I traded the .357 to a guy at the docks for two 21 cubic foot refrigerators, I kept one and sold the other for enough to buy the rest of this stuff.”  That is not exactly how it works, but that was then.

            Another war story.  A great man I once worked for, Command Sergeant Major John Pearce, had a reputation, with those who didn’t know him, as being dumb and loud.  He was loud, he was certainly not dumb.  He is the only individual ever to be Command Sergeant Major of the 82nd Airborne Division twice.  After his first term as the Division Sergeant Major, he was sent to Vietnam as a Battalion Sergeant Major in the 1st Cavalry Division.  There was a supply problem in his battalion.   Replacement uniforms and boots weren’t getting to the troops in the field, they were in rags.  He went to the Battalion S4 Sergeant to find the problem.  The Supply Sergeant told him that they were being requested, but sometimes higher headquarters claimed that they didn’t get the request and they would have to send it up again.  CSM Pearce said; “I told him that he had three weeks to fix it or I would send him to the field with a rifle company and his assistant could be the supply sergeant.  He told me I couldn’t do that.  Three weeks went by and nothing happened.  I went back to the rear and put him with his gear on my helicopter and dropped him off with a rifle company.  In less than three weeks the uniforms, boots, and replacement personal gear started flowing.  I left him out there over a month, and when I picked him up he didn’t really want to leave, he told me that moving with a rifle company in a combat area was less stressful than supply.  He said that he now had a much better appreciation for his job.  We didn’t have any more supply problems during the rest of my tour with that battalion.”

So, what jobs, other than a company supply clerk, may a 92Y perform, in the Army?  I recently discovered a great example.  Shantae Gordon, of Glen Allen, Virginia, was 19 years old when she enlisted in the Army in September 1997.  She enlisted with a 92Y Unit Supply Specialist contract.  She went through basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, then attended 92Y AIT at Fort Lee, Virginia.  Her first assignment was to Germany, as a supply clerk.  She apparently enjoyed what she was doing, because she became one of the almost 20 percent of enlistees who spend 20 or more years and will someday retire from the Army.

Back in the states, at Fort Stewart, Georgia, she became a Supply Sergeant.  After a couple years, she was back in Germany, as the Supply Sergeant of a Military Police Battalion.  Upon returning to the US, she was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas, “The Big Red One”.  In February 2008, she became a Sergeant First Class, a Senior non-commissioned officer.  As a Battalion Supply Sergeant in Iraq, at Christmas 2009, she was quoted by Specialist Shantelle Campbell, in the “War on Terror News”; “As my mother would say, [Christmas] is a time to remember the reason for the season,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shantae Gordon, of Glen Allen, Va., and the logistics noncommissioned officer in charge for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-1 BSTB. “It’s a time to celebrate Christ and [His] birth.” “We have a lot of activities [planned],” Gordon added, “and it’s my job to ensure that all of the Soldiers are taken care of and to make sure they’re not inside feeling left out.”

In October 2012, at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Paktika Province, Afghanistan, she became the First Sergeant of Delta Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.

Along the way, one of her assignments was the Whitehouse Communications Agency – yes – she worked in THE White House.

In Kuwait, she was the Logistics Sergeant Major for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, from Kuwait to Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Alpha Company, 73rd Ordnance Battalion – IET
January 12, 2019  · 
Alpha Company Soldiers hosted a Male and Female Mentorship event in the company area on 12 January 2019. This event included guest speakers SGM Shantae Gordon (BDE S-4 SGM for 35th TTSB), MSG (R) Fred Montgomery and MSG (R) James Zurcher that spoke to the Soldiers about their military experiences and shared words of wisdom. The Soldiers thoroughly enjoyed this event and look forward to next one.

In February 2020, she became the Sergeant Major of Tobyhanna Army Depot, near Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, where she is the senior enlisted advisor for around 4,000 military and civilian employees.

I don’t think her official photograph does her justice.  Watch her story on her five minute video.  She is a cool lady, loving her work. 

GENERAL LAURA Richardson – the reaL deal!!

Laura Jane Strickland, was the first child born to Darwin Jan and Suzanne Strickland on December 11th, 1963, in Kansas City, Missouri.  Darwin (he goes by Jan) was a medical student, and Suzanne was a teacher helping put her husband through Medical school.  Jan graduated in 1965 as a DO, and moved the family to Northglenn, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, and set up a family practice.  Laura’s sister Elaine was born in July 1967, and another sister, Janis, in October 1970.  Finally a brother, Darwin, was born in July 1974.

            Jan and Suzanne Strickland were concerned with keeping their children away from drugs and other trouble in the 1970’s and 80’s.  They put the four kids on a strict physical program.  Northglenn is a middle class suburb north of Denver.  At their home, the Strickland’s built an indoor, two-lane pool off the family room, they installed a rubber track for sprints in the back yard and turned their basement into a gym with a treadmill for everyone (they had six).  All four kids rose at 5:30 a.m. daily, for laps in the pool before school.  Brother Darwin qualified for Olympic trials and Laura was an All American swimmer.  There were daily family runs 365 days a year, even before presents could be opened on Christmas morning.  All won athletic awards and earned scholarships.  Sister Janis said that all four thrived on the discipline and daily workouts, a practice that has served them well.  All four would take Army ROTC, only Elaine would drop out because of asthma.  The other three would serve as officers in the Army.  The Strickland’s believe that it was Laura who set the example that led to their children’s interest in the military.

            Laura attended Elementary, Middle, and High School in Northglenn.  She was very interested in the medical field, because of her doctor father, but also became fascinated with flying.  At 15, while a junior in high school, she started taking flying lessons and earned her private pilot licenses at 17.  She entered Regis College in Denver as a Pre-med student and drove an hour each way every Thursday to attend Air Force ROTC classes.  She was tired of the two hour commute to the Air Force ROTC, so in her sophomore year she switched to Army ROTC at Metropolitan State College of Denver.  She said that the Army ROTC program seemed more suited to her than the Air Force program.  For her senior year, she switched her classes to Metropolitan State, went on to summer school and graduated in August 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. 

            Upon graduation, Laura was commissioned, from the Army ROTC program, as a Second Lieutenant (2LT) in the U.S. Army.  She was branched “Aviation”.  Her private pilot’s license, with five years flying experience had to be the Army’s deciding factor in her branch assignment.  In September 1986, 2LT Laura Strickland reported to Fort Rucker, Alabama for the Aviation Officer Basic Course.  She graduated from the Officer Basic Course in December 1986, and started basic flight school.  Between classes, in a hallway she met a tall good looking Captain named Jim Richardson, who was there attending the Captain’s Aviation Career Course.  Jim says that he knew, that day, that he had met the girl he was going to marry.  Laura says it was maybe a month before she called her mother and told her that she thought she had met the man she was going to marry. 

            James Richardson was born and grew up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  He once described himself as growing up as a good ole surfer boy, with the military never entering his mind.  He graduated from high school in 1978 and went on to Coastal Carolina University in Conway, 15 miles from Myrtle Beach.  It was there he became fascinated with helicopters.  Coastal Carolina didn’t have an ROTC program and University of South Carolina (USC) was just starting ROTC, but by that time Jim had two years of college under his belt and didn’t qualify for the Senior ROTC program.  He needed basic training.  Jim’s father, James, a former Marine, was an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard and helped him sign up for the guard.  He took basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  I was a Drill Sergeant at Fort Jackson during that time, but I didn’t find James Richardson in the class books I have, but I seem to remember a tall guy named Richardson, who was a trainee truck driver.  I do know that the summer he went through basic, 1980, was one of the hottest on record.  We watered down the trainees with garden hoses, during training, in an attempt to prevent heat casualties.  James Richardson graduated from USC in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (both have the same BA degree), and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in Armor.  He attended the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky and then went to flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama.  Aviation was created as a separate Branch in the Army in late 1983, and officer classes started in 1984.  Up until that time, officer pilots came from other branches (usually Infantry or Armor), they attended their branch schools and were “detailed” to flight status.  Captain James Richardson was back at Fort Rucker attending the Aviation Advanced Course when he and Laura met.

            During flight school, students’ skills, abilities, and scores are evaluated to determine the type of aircraft on which they will receive specific training.  Laura was selected to fly the UH-60 Blackhawk.  At that time women weren’t allowed to fly “attack” helicopters.  James flew the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.

            After receiving notification that Laura’s first assignment would be Korea, James and Laura married November 25th 1987, at Fort Rucker.  In December 1987 Laura graduated and proceeded to her first assignment in Korea.  She was assigned as a Platoon Leader in the 128th Assault Helicopter Company.  She had five Blackhawks in her platoon hauling combat troops.  Laura was promoted to First Lieutenant (1LT) in March 1988.  In May 1988, James was assigned to Korea in the 4th Attack Helicopter Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 17th Aviation Brigade, and Laura was reassigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment.  Their only child, daughter Lauren, was born in the spring of 1989.  While in Company C, Laura served as Administrative Officer, Company Executive Officer, and Platoon Leader.   From July 1989 until April 1990, 1LT Laura Richardson was the Assistant S4 Officer (Logistics) in the 17th Aviation Brigade Headquarters.  From April to September 1990, Laura was the S1 (Personnel) officer, while Captain James was the S3 (Operations) officer of the 4th Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment.  In September 1990, Laura was given command of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion.  Laura was promoted to Captain March 1st, 1991, and the Richardson’s all came back to the states in September 1991.  In later years, Jim told the story that Laura’s unit in Korea had a yearly Iron Man Contest, and after 5-ft. 4-in. Laura beat dozens of men to win the contest, the event was renamed the Iron Person Contest.

            They were assigned to Fort Rucker, where Laura attended the Career Captain’s Aviation Officer Advanced Course, and James attended other advanced aviation courses.  When Laura completed the course in March 1992, they were assigned to Fort Hood, Texas. 

They were at Fort Hood for three years.  Laura’s initial assignment, from April to July 1992 was as the Chief, Health and Fitness Section in the G1 section of the Headquarters of III Corps, then she was given command of B Company, 1st Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, which was what the Army calls a “Command Aviation Company”.  It flies the Generals, Colonels and VIP’s.  She ended her time there as the S1 (Personnel) Officer of the 6th Cavalry Brigade.  James was  the S3 (Operations) officer of the 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry, promoted to Major, then the Executive Officer of the 4th Squadron, 6th Cavalry.   From Fort Hood, they moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  Like any Army wife, before the move, Laura was always on the phone to friends at the next duty station inquiring about places to live, day care facilities, and possible baby sitters.

James attended the US Army Command and General Staff College, while Laura was assigned as an Aviation Observer Trainer/Assistant Operations Officer in the Battle Command Training Program at the US Army Combined Arms Center.  She helped train the Army National Guard Enhanced Brigades, which were being aligned with active Army divisions.  In the spring of 1996 Laura was selected for promotion to Major, so the following year she attended the Command and General Staff College, while James attended the School of Advanced Military Studies, which designated him as a strategic planner.  Laura was promoted to Major March 1st, 1997, and in June 1997 they moved to Fort Campbell, Kentucky to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

At Fort Campbell Laura was assigned as the S3 (Operations) Officer of the 9th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, while James became the S3 of the 159th Aviation Brigade.  Laura later became the Executive Officer of the 9th Battalion, while James moved up to be the Plans Officer in the G3 (Operations) section of division headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division. 

A normal tour for officers is three years, at least a minimum of two years, at one location.  Jim, Laura, and Lauren were standing at the airport baggage claim for a long planned trip to Disney World when Laura got a call summoning her to Washington, D.C. to be interviewed by Vice President Al Gore.  Laura was pulled out four months early, in February 1999, to be one of two military aides to the Vice President of the United States.  Not only did she carry the nuclear launch codes, but being the senior military person closest to the VP, who is required to fly on military aircraft, she became the coordinator of all military aircraft and crews during VP Gore’s campaign for president.  After the election, she was an aide to VP Chaney for about a month.  She and her Navy counterpart were replaced by five military aides, one from each of the services.  James and Lauren moved to Washington about four months later.  James worked in the G3 Section (Operations and Training) of Army Headquarters in the Pentagon.

In March 2001 they moved back to Fort Campbell to the 101st Airborne Division.  Laura was assigned as the Deputy G3 of the 101st Airborne Division.  Not only was she the first female to hold that position, she was the first aviator (non-infantryman) to be in that job.  James had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (LTC), and a board at Army Headquarters selected him for command.  James took command of the 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, which was the Apache attack helicopters.  Laura was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) on June 1st 2001.  Jim remembers the frustration he felt in March 2002 when he walked into the Emergency Operations Center at Fort Campbell and listened in on a battle taking place at that moment on the other side of the world.  The early stages of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan.  The 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division had walked into a hornet’s nest and clearly did not have the firepower they needed.  By the end of the day the 101st Airborne Division Commander had ordered LTC James Richardson to pack up his battalion with their aircraft and head to Afghanistan.  Ninety-six hours later, all his aircraft had been taken apart, loaded onto cargo planes and shipped out.  Upon arriving, LTC James Richardson, by default, became the Air Commander for Operation Anaconda.  The added firepower quickly turned the tide of battle.  “The Al-Qaeda were used to seeing Apaches one or two at a time”, Jim recalled.  “Now they were facing an entire battalion of 24 aircraft.  There was no place they could hide or regroup.”  The fighting was vicious.  One of the battalion’s Apaches was shot down, both pilots were too badly injured to get out, and the helicopter could explode.  Unable to land nearby, Jim had his co-pilot/gunner hover his aircraft over the crash site.  Jim jumped to the ground, injuring his back but not badly enough to prevent him from pulling both pilots out and staying with them until a medical evacuation team arrived. 

Laura was selected for command, and in July 2002 took command of the 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, which was the UH-60 Blackhawks

LTC Jim Richardson and his battalion of Apaches returned to Fort Campbell in August 2002. 

In February and March 2003 the 101st Airborne Division, commanded by Major General David Petraus, deployed to Kuwait, including both Jim and Laura’s battalions, to prepare for the invasion of Iraq.  Only about 1 in 20 officers, who start out as lieutenants, gets a battalion command, and never before had husband and wife each commanded battalions in the same unit.  Not only were they commanding battalions, they were going into combat, commanding those battalions.  Jim’s Apaches provided overhead cover for the ground troops and the Blackhawk helicopters delivering them.  Laura’s battalion of 30 Blackhawk helicopters and 320 soldiers shuttled combat troops into battle, delivered artillery pieces, heavy equipment, supplies and ammunition.  LTC Laura Richardson was not only a command pilot, but as Battalion Commander was also responsible for maintenance, training new pilots, maintenance of wheeled vehicles, feeding the troops and supplying the troops.  Any General Officer who has commanded units at every level in the Army will tell you that battalion command is the pinnacle of command, full of exhilaration, frustration, stress, and satisfaction.  A company commander has a company, and a brigade commander has battalion commanders to run the battalions.  I have heard battalion command described as training an octopus to keep its eight legs all going the same direction.  Laura said that she had learned something about herself when she worked in the White House.  She said that it was her first assignment that involved working with other women.  She said; ”I got used to dealing with men all the time, and it made me very direct and even abrupt.  I found that I can be just as effective without having to change how I truly am.”  A Free Republic article from Iraq in 2003 reported that her troops, among themselves, called her Mom and figured out that the way to improve her mode was to ply her with Skittles.  Only about 10% of the MRE’s (meals ready to eat) had Skittles (Laura’s favorite), so her battalion staff would hoard them for use when they had to deliver bad news. She shared a tent with 65 of her troops, discovering to her surprise how loudly some men snore.  They all slept in their uniforms or stripped down to T shirts.  There were separate showers for men and women.

Lauren was 14 then and moved in with her friend Callie.  They put twin beds together in their bedroom and called it the “hotel”.  Callie’s mother, Cecilia, whose husband was also in the gulf, offered to take Lauren in so she could finish the eighth grade with the rest of her class, before moving to Colorado with her grandparents.  “I like sleeping over at a friend’s house for a month. It’s fun. But it’s not home,” Lauren said, not finding fault, just stating a fact.  Aunt Elaine, a nurse in Denver, planned on being a companion aunt with Lauren for the summer.

The 101st redeployed to Fort Campbell in January and February 2004.  In the summer of 2004 the Richardson’s turned over their commands and moved back to Washington, D.C.  Laura was assigned as the Army Campaign Planner in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans in Army headquarters.  James attended the National War College in Washington, D.C., and then worked in the G3/5/7 staff of Army headquarters.  From August 2006 to June 2007 Laura attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C.  She was promoted to full Colonel January 1st, 2007.  James, already a Colonel, moved in December 2006 back to Fort Campbell and assumed command of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.  In July 2007, Laura was named Post Commander of US Army Garrison, Fort Myer, Virginia (Washington, D.C.)  Lauren stayed with Laura to finish her senior year in high school before starting college in Virginia.

First Female Commander of the 3rd Army’s Old Guard throws out the first pitch for the 2007 First Responders Girls Softball Tournament

In December 2007, Col James Richardson deployed with the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade to Afghanistan.  The Brigade returned in March 2009, James turned over his command and went back to the Pentagon, where he was assigned as the Executive Officer to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army.

In October 2009 Colonel Laura Richardson was assigned as the Chief of the Senate Liaison Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Army.  The Senate Liaison Office is the primary point of contact with members of the US Senate, their staff, and relevant committees to assist them in understanding policies, actions, operations and requirements of the Army, and to respond to their questions to the Army.  She served in that position until June 2011.  On June 6th, 2011, Senator Mark Udall entered a tribute to Colonel Laura Richardson into the congressional record for her outstanding performance in that position.

In July 2010, James moved to Fort Hood, Texas and became the Assistant Division Commander for Support of the 1st Cavalry Division.  On March 28th, 2011, he was promoted to Brigadier General, the authorized rank for his position.  In May 2011 the Division Headquarters, and one Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division deployed to Afghanistan, which also made BG James Richardson the Deputy Commanding General of Combined Joint Task Force-1, in Regional Command-East.

In July 2011, Laura moved to Fort Hood and became Commander of the US Army Operational Test Command.  That command tests every item coming into the Army, before it is placed in the hands of the troops. 

The band played, soldiers stood at attention, and Colonel Laura Richardson took command of the Army’s Operational Test Command (OTC), at West Fort Hood.

She was promoted to Brigadier General on March 2nd, 2012, and five days later the Army announced that BG Laura Richardson would become the first female Assistant Division Commander in history, replacing her husband who would be returning from Afghanistan the following month.  On July 5th, 2012, BG Laura became an Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, and BG James became the Deputy Commander of III Corps (three corps or 3rd Corps), both at Fort Hood. 

Sergeant Kim Browne, of the 1st Cav PAO wrote on July 10th 2012; “America’s First Team farewelled Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia Vimoto, former division command sergeant major, Brig. Gen. James Richardson, former deputy commanding general of support, 1st Cav. Div., and hailed Brig. Gen. Laura Richardson, deputy commanding general of support for the division, during a Patch Ceremony, July 5, on Cooper Field.”

In April 2013, III Corps Headquarters deployed to Afghanistan and assumed the mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command, or IJC, which was responsible for day-to-day operations throughout Afghanistan.  This sent BG James Richardson back to Afghanistan for his fourth tour.  BG Laura Richardson also went to Afghanistan as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications in ISAF Headquarters.  In Kabul, on May 28th, 2013,BG Laura got to pin a second star on her husband, now Major General James Richardson.  James wore two hats, he was Deputy Commander of III Corps and Commander of the National Support Element.  In June 2013 a ceremony was held in Kabul officially transferring responsibility for nationwide security operations from ISAF to the Afghan National Security Forces.  James was responsible for the “draw down” of US forces and the redeployment of troops and equipment, as well as the security of all US bases in Afghanistan.  An article from that time said; “With 68,000 soldiers and 100,000 contractors in Afghanistan, simply trying to synchronize operations and make sure everyone is integrated is a complex task.  A typical day for Major General Richardson begins 4:30 a.m. and ends around midnight.”

III Corps and the Richardson’s returned to Fort Hood in April 2014, and at a retreat ceremony on May 22nd, the Richardson’s were praised for their service at Fort Hood, as they departed. 

Rose Thayer, wrote in the Killeen Daily Herald, April 7th 2013.  Brig Gen Laura Richardson, deputy commander of support for the 1st Cavalry Division, hugs Maj. Gen. Anthony Lerardi, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, during a patch ceremony for her departure Friday, April 5, 213, at Cooper Field at Fort Hood. (Herald/Marianne Lijewski)

Major General James Richardson took command of the Army Aviation and Missile Command and Redstone Arsenal (Huntsville), Alabama on June 12th, 2014 and Laura was assigned as the Chief of Legislative Liaison in the Pentagon, and promoted to Major General on August 14th, 2014. 

On February 16, 2016, MG James Richardson turned over his command and moved back to Washington to become Director of the Quadrennial Defense Review Office in the Pentagon.

The higher in rank the smaller the Army becomes.  There are just over 110 Major Generals and less than 50 Lieutenant Generals in the Army.  At that level “everybody knows everybody”, and as Chief of Legislative Liaison, Laura Richardson was in the absolute spot light for three years, communicating with congress, testifying before congress and assisting others testifying before congress. 

WASHINGTON (August 5, 2015) — Hundreds of audience members came out to see the U.S. Army Military District of Washington’s Twilight Tattoo hosted by Maj. Gen. Laura Richardson, chief, Army Legislative Liaison, held on Whipple Field at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.  (Photo Credit – US Army)

In April 2017, the Deputy Commander of FORSCOM (US Army Forces Command), the United States largest military command, including all active, reserve, and National Guard combat troops in the continental US., LTG Patrick J Donahue, who had a stellar record as a commander and was speculated by many to get a 4th star, suddenly submitted his retirement to become effective on May 31st, because of family health issues.

In the Fayetteville Observer, Drew Brooks quoted General Robert “Abe” Abrams. The FORSCOM Commander, as saying; “When Pat Donahue told me that he was retiring, I knew that there was one person I wanted as the deputy and that was Laura Richardson.” Despite, their never having worked together, he said: “I know her reputation. I’ve seen her work… “She’s the exact right leader at the exact right time.”

Jim Richardson once said that his fast-moving wife would never outrank him, because he would retire first. 

On May 25th 2017, the US Senate approved Laura J Richardson’s promotion to Lieutenant General and assignment as Deputy Commander of US Army Forces Command.

Maj. Gen. Laura J. Richardson’s husband, Maj. Gen. Jim Richardson and daughter Lauren pin on her new rank during her promotion ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, VA, Aug. 14, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez/ Released)

LTG Laura Richardson has been on TV shows and the cover of Time Magazine as a trail blazing successful woman.  She has always appeared as a “pretty little girl”, always smiling.  I watched an hour and a half interview with her by the Army Department of Military History.  That interview was conducted in 2007 and she was congenial, articulate, professional and very smart.  She came across as a “down to earth” common sense person, but I got the feeling, by the time that interview was over, that the inside of that petite, extremely smart, pretty woman was constructed of steel.  I’ve known men who were natural born leaders, who carried an aura of confidence and authority about them.  When they speak people listen, and when they move people follow.  I’m sure that there are many, but Laura Richardson is the first woman whom I have seen exhibit those characteristics.

In 2018, North Korea was a very sensitive area, President Trump was directly negotiating with the North Korean President.  When the Commander of US/United Nations Forces in South Korea, General Vincent K Brooks, suddenly decided to retire, it caused a knee-jerk reaction in the US.  Instead of going through the process of selecting a replacement, the top commander in the country was pulled from his command and sent to Korea. 

On October 17th 2018, General Milley, the Army Chief of Staff, went to FORSCOM Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and instead of a “Change of Command” conducted a “Relinquishment of Command” ceremony.  During the ceremony he turned to Lieutenant General (LTG) Laura Richardson, the Deputy Commander of FORSCOM and now the “Acting Commander”, and said; “You’re going to be commanding this command for a considerable length of time. It will be measured in months, not days or weeks. We know that you’re going to do a great job and we know that everyone in forces command is going to do as great a job for Laura Richardson as you did for Abe Abrams.”

Husband James, caught up with Laura, in rank, in October 2018, when he was promoted to Lieutenant General, and assigned as the Deputy Commander of the new US Army Futures Command, in Austin, Texas.

After her designation as acting commander, Daniel S. Morgan, an Army Colonel retiring in December, of that year, wrote an article titled “The Army Finally Got it Right”, in the hill.com.  He wrote, “I was an infantry company commander during the invasion of Iraq and spent many of hours in the back of UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters that she and her fellow units flew.  I also overlapped with her in 1999-2000 when she was the military assistant to Vice President Al Gore, and I was the executive assistant to Gen. Barry McCaffrey, then a presidential cabinet officer as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Her reputation was extraordinary then, as it is today.  Every decision in the Army is judged on the basis of combat readiness and its impact on the Army’s ability to deter, deny and defeat the enemy in battle. With the appointment of LTG Richardson, the Army promoted the right leader. She is the real deal.”

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), poses for a command portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, June 20, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King/Released)
LTG Laura Richardson, Acting Commander of FORSCOM, briefs Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

For five months LTG Laura Richardson commanded all US Army combat soldiers, active, reserve, and guard, in the continental US, as the commander of the United States largest military command, US Army Forces Command.

On March 21st 2019, Michael X. Garrett, was promoted to four stars and assumed command of Forces Command, and in July 2019, LTG Laura Richardson assumed command of US Army North at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.  Army North’s primary mission is homeland security, which includes the border with Mexico.

On Monday, March 8th 2021, International Women’s Day, President Biden announced his nomination of two women to four stars.  Air Force LTG Jacqueline Van Ovost, to be Commander of the United States Transportation Command, and Army LTG Laura Richardson to be commander of the United States Southern Command.

That is not only a huge command, but the most active in terms of everyday, real world missions, in this hemisphere, south of the United States.

The US Southern Command, currently commanded by Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, is what is called a Unified Combatant Command, consisting of elements from all the armed services.  It’s area of responsibility is all of Central and South America, and their adjacent waters, the Caribbean Sea with all its US and European nations and territories. 

Subordinate commands of the USSOUTHCOM are;

US Army South, headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, commanded by Major General Daniel R. Walrath.  US Army South conducts humanitarian and civil assistance operations throughout the area.  Has around four thousand troops deployed. 

Special Operations Command South, headquartered at Homestead Air Base, near Miami, commanded by Rear Admiral Keith B. Davids. SOCSOUTH has a US Army Special Forces Company, with all attached Special Operations support units, Naval Special Warfare Unit Four, and Joint Special Operations Air Component South. 

Air Forces Southern/12 Air Force, headquartered at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, commanded by Major General Barry R. Cornish, is basically an Air Force Special Operations command. 

US Naval Forces Southern Command/US Fourth Fleet, headquartered at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, commanded by Captain Richard S. Lofgren, oversees naval operations throughout the USSOUTHCOM area.

US Marine Forces South (USMARFORSOUTH), headquartered at Doral, Florida, commanded by Brigadier General Phillip N. Frietze, runs Marine Force operations throughout the USSOUTHCOM area.

Joint Task Force – Bravo, at Soto-Cano Air Base, Honduras, commanded by Army Colonel John D. Litchfield, is the forward deployed activity to provide partner nations, humanitarian and civic assistance, counterdrug, contingency and disaster relief operations in Central America.

Joint Interagency Task Force South (JITFS), headquartered at Naval Air Station Key West Florida, commanded by US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Douglas Fears, is an interagency coordinator and overseer of counter drug, smuggling, and terrorist activity in the USSOUTHCOM area.

Joint Task Force Guantanamo –  Runs GTMO.

This is a big job, and a lot of people think that this pretty lady of steel, is who needs to command it.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), poses for a command portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Oct. 1, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King)


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, February 6th 2019.  The Belle Banner has since closed shop.  I have written about other individual Generals, but only published them locally.  However, this individual is now a key figure in the security of the United States of America.  Robert Burns, is the Associated Press military reporter for the Pentagon, and has covered the military for the past thirty years.  His stories have been so that he could be called an unofficial Pentagon insider.  On January 17th, Robert Burns posted a story titled “Gen Milley Key to military continuity as Biden takes office”.  It is well worth the read.  This story is more about the man, Mark Milley, and the job of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

President Trump announced on December 8th (Army-Navy Game Day) that he was nominating Army Chief of Staff General Mark A. Milley to replace Marine General Joseph Dunford as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The appointment must be approved by the Senate.

            What does the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff do, and who is General Mark Milley?

            The position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was created in 1949 by amendments to the 1947 National Security Act.  The “Chiefs” include the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, all four star officers.  The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act elevated the position from being the “first among equals” to being “the principal military advisor” to the President and the Secretary of Defense.  The Chief has traditionally been rotated among the services, which would point this selection to the Air Force, who last occupied the job in 2005.  Both Secretary of Defense Mattis and General Dunford favored Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein.  The President interviewed both Generals Goldfein and Milley and immediately selected General Milley.  So who is this man who will be the top ranking military officer in the United States of America?

            General Mark Milley is currently the Chief of Staff of the Army.  When he was selected for that job, three years ago, nobody in Washington, DC knew him.  He had not had multiple assignments there, as many general officers have in the past.  He has been described as an Ivy League educated career grunt, which I think was meant as a slight by those Northeast writers.  He is of very strong character, as well as being physically strong, extremely intelligent, quick witted with a sense of humor, but a straight talking, no BS, tell it like it is kind of guy, he is also known as a “tough guy”.  The military, including the Army, has since World War II been terribly slow in changing or obtaining new things.  First there has to be a study or two, specifications developed, prototypes built, more studies, then a long bidding process.  That really came to light in Iraq, when a new office had to be created just to “break the rules” to rapidly get equipment to the troops.  When General Milley became the Chief of Staff, the Army was at the end of a two year, 17 million dollar study to replace its’ handgun (a pistol).  General Milley reportedly “blew his top”.  He said; “We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing.  This is a pistol.  Two years to test?  At 17 million.  You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million.  And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”  He has since streamlined the army’s acquisition process and practically at his direction a new four star command was created.  The Army Futures Command is located in a “tech” neighborhood in downtown Austin, Texas, and the staff wear civilian suits more than army suits.  Its mission is to look to and develop for the future and to incorporate the newest and most advanced technology into the Army.

            Mark Milley’s father was a Marine in World War II and fought at Iwo Jima.   Mark Milley was born September 26th 1950 in Winchester, Massachusetts, which is about eight miles north of downtown Boston.  He went to Belmont Hill High School, where he was Captain of the Hockey Team.  Mark Milley was on the first team that Ken Martin coached at Belmont Hill.  Ken said that out of all the players of 40 years and 700 wins of coaching, Mark Milley stands apart from the crowd.  Ken said; “After breaking his jaw in one game, Milley wired his jaw shut, finished the game and did not miss another game the rest of the season.  He was one of the most reliable and consistent players we ever had.”  After high school, Mark went to Princeton, studied Political Science, took Army ROTC, and played hockey for four years.  He was first captain of the JV squad, then played Varsity Hockey.  He was nicknamed “Milldog”.  This is a tough guy.

“”Milldog Milley” on the Princeton Hockey Team

            He graduated from Princeton in 1980 and was commissioned into the Army as a Second Lieutenant.  After the Officer Basic Course and Airborne and Ranger schools, his first assignment was to the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  After about a year there, he transferred to Special Forces, completed the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to an A Detachment, and eventually commanded an A Detachment.  When he was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California.  He commanded two different infantry companies in the same battalion. The 5th Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment.  That is very rare. The only time I know of that happening was when a company commander was relieved of duty (fired) and the battalion commander moved his best company commander to that company to straighten it out.  It was in that assignment that he saw combat in Panama.  He was a staff officer in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, in 1994 and deployed to Haiti in Operation Uphold Democracy to remove the military regime there.  From Fort Drum he went to Korea and commanded the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry in the 2nd Infantry Division in 1996 – 1998.  The 1/506th had responsibility for the DMZ, at that time.  As a full Colonel in the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii in 2002 he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina as Commander of the US Provisional Brigade and took part in mine clearing, reconstruction, and the destruction of weapons.

            In 2003 Colonel Milley was assigned back to Fort Drum as the Commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.  His brigade deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.  After turning over the brigade, he had his first assignment to Washington, DC, where he was Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  The job was only for a few months, but Robert Gates was so impressed with Colonel Milley that Gates flew to Fort Campbell, Kentucky on February 1st, 2008 for Milley’s promotion to Brigadier General, where he was Deputy Commanding General for Operations of the 101st Airborne Division.  While in that job, he deployed to Afghanistan as Deputy Commander of Regional Command-East.  He was promoted to two stars (Major General) and assigned as Commander of the 10th Mountain Division in November 2011.  In December 2012 he was promoted to three stars (Lieutenant General) and assigned as the Commanding General of III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas.  III Corps includes the 1st Cavalry Division, 36th Engineer Regiment, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado, and the 75th Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  During that job he deployed to Afghanistan as the Commanding General, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, and Deputy Commanding General US Forces – Afghanistan.  In August 2014 he was promoted to full General (four stars) and made Commander of US Forces Command, the largest US military command.  In August 2015 he was approved by the Senate to be the Chief of Staff of the Army.

            While testifying before the House Armed Services Committee about a continuing resolution instead of a budget, he admonished them (chewed them out) for not passing a budget.  He said; “I think – candidly – failure to pass a budget, in my view as both an American citizen and the chief of staff of the United States Army, constitutes professional malpractice.  I don’t think we should accept it as the new normal.  I think we should pass [the budget] …and get on with it.  The world is a dangerous place and is becoming more dangerous by the day.  Pass the budget.”

General Milley before a Congressional Committee

            At General Milley’s direction a new type of brigade has been formed.  Security Force Assistance Brigades are staffed only by leaders, officers and senior non-commissioned officers for a total of about 800 in an entire brigade – no troops.  Their mission is to train foreign armies.  Special Forces are the masters of creating guerilla armies from scratch.  But our combat brigades have been tasked with training established foreign armies that are not very good, like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Only the leaders are used to advise and assist those foreign armies, but it makes that brigade non-deployable for a year.  General Milley said that his brigade in the 10th Mountain Division was tasked to do an advisory mission in Afghanistan.  He said; “My brigade was all broke apart to do that.  I thought at that time ….’there has got to be a better way of doing this.  There has got to be a more professional way’.  We were ad hoc.  We were pulling it out of our butts, so to speak”.

General Milley and his wife Holly at Pointe du hoc Normandy June 2016

            General Milley has a Bachelors Degree in Political Science from Princeton, Masters Degrees from Columbia University in International Relations and National and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, and is a graduate from MIT’s National Security Studies Program.  He is charismatic and witty and can be as tough as nails when necessary.  He is a humble, no pretense man, while speaking at a function he thanked the organization for the introduction and pageantry, and then said; “This could cause a person to think that they are somebody”.             An extremely smart, humble, and tough guy who is used to getting things done


There are two very different US Armies.  Many soldiers who enlist in the Army, go through their training, go to a unit, at most Army posts, and do their time, never know that there are two Army’s. 

            I am not suggesting that a big part of the Army is substandard, it is not.  The US Army is the finest army in the world, and is the most professional it has ever been, but one part of it is head and shoulders above the rest.  If you think the Marines are proud and cultish, you ain’t seen nuthin yet.

The recent command climate problems at Fort Hood, Texas, has made the two army’s visible.  There is the Airborne Army and the Non-Airborne Army. 

The Airborne Army’s difference is more than just jumping out of airplanes, its complete culture is different from the non-airborne army.  Fort Bragg, North Carolina is the home of the Airborne, it is the home of the John F Kennedy Special Warfare School and Center that trains all Green Berets, it is the home of the US Army Special Operations Command, the 3rd Special Forces Group, and the super-secret Delta Force.  It is also home to the headquarters of US Army Forces Command, the largest military command, the US Army Reserve Command, 18th Airborne Corps Headquarters, and the 18,000 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division, America’s fire brigade, ready to go anywhere, at a moments notice.  It is the largest military post, with over 55,000 soldiers.  It has been called the center of the military universe, and with dozens of general officers on post, it has also been called Pentagon South.

It is the favorite post of thousands of soldiers, most all of whom are airborne.  The surrounding area is one of the largest retired military communities, in the country.  Time magazine once named Fayetteville, North Carolina the most pro military city in the United States.  The US Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum occupies about two city blocks in downtown Fayetteville.        

            The biggest difference between Fort Bragg, which is centered around the 82nd Airborne Division, and most other army posts, is a culture of achievement and success.  There are several facets to that culture. 

The 82nd Airborne Division is the United States military ready unit.  One of its three brigade combat teams (BCT), is always on standby.  That entire 4,500 paratrooper brigade, with all equipment, can be “wheels up” to anywhere, within 18 hours of notification, and as the world witnessed New Year’s Day 2020, in response to the attack on the American Embassy in Baghdad, one 750 soldier battalion can be on a plane in about six hours.  To maintain that kind of combat readiness, there has to be rules and standards, and lots of training.  The 82nd definitely has high standards.  It also has a history of never failing to accomplish its mission. 

            In May 2018, First Sergeant Erik Salo, of the Falcon Brigade (2nd BCT, 82nd Abn Div), who said that he had been in the division for over a decade, said; “Serving in the division means that you honor a concept of professionalism.  Nobody else can rapidly deliver the amount of firepower, at one time, as the 82nd Airborne Division.  These men and women volunteered to go airborne, and be in a unit that is going to be on the leading edge of the battlefield.  There is a lot of pride and a lot of history here, and you feel that, every single day you come to work.”

 In that same 2018 video, Sergeant First Class Chris Abrahamson said; “These people love to be airborne, they really do.  A lot of that comes from their being proud of the unit, the history, and the footsteps they walk in.” 

The bond between paratroopers spans generations.
The 82nd Airborne Division sends contingents to both D-Day and Holland annual celebrations. (Not in 2020). This picture is a few years old, Kissta is now married with a family, and a Sergeant First Class, NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer In Charge) of the Public Affairs Office of the 1st Special Forces Command on Fort Bragg.

Every year, since the mid 1980’s, the 82nd Airborne Division has conducted “All American Week”, the week before the Memorial Day weekend.  Due to COVID-19, it did not happen in 2020.   The activities of All American Week are coordinated with the 82nd Airborne Division Association, which is comprised of 82nd veterans, and has 96 chapters scattered around the United States. 

The Fayetteville Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association is a non-profit organization for former and current veterans of the 82nd Airborne Division who saw service during World War II, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Desert Shield/Storm, Iraqi Freedom, Afghanistan or any other wartime or peacetime service. The purpose of the association is to preserve and strengthen the bonds of friendship and camaraderie among the members through reunions, meetings, publications and other social activities.
Look what a couple guys from the Tampa Bay Chapter started.
The 82nd Airborne Division Association has its own convention every year, in a different city. (Not in 2020).

All American Week starts on Monday morning with a division four-mile run.  Imagine about 15,000 paratroopers all running in one giant formation. Veterans are invited to run with the troops, one who lost his legs makes part of the run.

Troops high fiving the Division Commander, Major General Richard Clarke, at the end of the run in 2015. Now General Clarke, who commands the United States Special Operations Command.

Hundreds of 82nd veterans are always in attendance, meeting and mingling with the paratroops.  There are breakfasts with veterans, prayer breakfasts, unit picnics, and athletic competition between units. Wednesday is a memorial service at the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum, honoring the over 5,000 82nd paratroopers who have been killed in combat, and almost 300 killed in training.

All American Week 2017 was the 100th anniversary of the 82nd Division. The Division Commander, at that time, Major General (now Lieutenant General commanding the 18th Airborne Corps) Michael “Erik” Kurilla gave the following Memorial Ceremony speech.

It ends on Thursday with a mass parachute jump and tactical demonstration, on Sicily Drop Zone, then units forming in a review, in front of sometimes thousands of veterans, families, and spectators, waiting in the bleachers on Sicily.

Mass tactical parachute jump on Sicily Drop Zone, during All American Week.
Division formed up on Sicily Drop Zone, after a tactical demonstration, for the review march to the bleachers.
Division arriving at the bleachers.

A few years ago, a drill sergeant, who said that his first assignment in the army was the airborne brigade in Alaska, responding to a question about the 82nd, said this; “I hated the Army.  I would have rather died than reenlist.  Mind you, I hated the “back at Bragg” parrots even more.  When I received orders to Bragg my reaction was pretty much Nooo I’ve been assigned to hell.”  “I decided to make the best of it, I worked out super hard and prepared for my arrival as a specialist with a little bit more time in service.  Arrived at Bragg.  Ready for the whirlwind of BS Airborne to the fullest!  One of my first notable experiences was appearing before a Soldier of the Month Board, and getting kicked off because my Brigade Sergeant Major was upset that I was not already a Sergeant.  I got boarded and promoted to Sergeant.  My next experience was schools, real schools taught by Special Forces guys or civilian shooting instructors.  After that, my other experience was going to the field and instead of focusing on Iraq or Afghanistan, I was doing full blown airfield seizures and patrol base activities.  Stuff I had to brush up on because I never did it in my old unit.  After being a Sergeant for a year, I was sent to the Staff Sergeant board.  My platoon sergeants were competent as all hell.  My First Sergeants knew what was going on and actually cared.  My Lieutenants were not that stupid.  Commanders were legit.  My Battalion and Brigade Commanders were real warriors.  Moving on, I’m a Drill Sergeant now.  I’m around all sorts of infantrymen.  I know the average outlook on 82nd guys is how we always say “back at Bragg”.  I will say this though, the majority of 82nd guys want to go back to the 82nd.  I want to go back.  I also know other guys who have kind of a mutual respect for the 82nd.  One of the drills I work with always told me how it’s annoying about people from the 82nd always talk about it, but also kind of impressive how so many people from a division have pride in their division”. 

            A Sergeant First Class French, who has made dozens of youtube videos, made one titled “Why I love Fort Bragg”.  In it he describes arriving at Fort Bragg, as a new non-airborne private, going to jump school and returning to completely different treatment.  He says that Fort Bragg has an airborne culture, and that culture is one of achievement and success.  He says that non-airborne soldiers are looked at as not buying into that culture of professionalism and success.

            So, how is that professional, highly trained, culture, with very high morale, maintained year after year, commander after commander.  First, the Army tries to have the best officers in charge.  Command climate emanates from the boss.  I have seen troop attitudes change at a change of command ceremony, from company to division level.  When the boss of a factory, appreciates his employees, rewards extra production with bonuses, and pats on the back, and is sensitive to family requirements, production will go up, and people will stay and work harder than for one who doesn’t do those things.  The Army is the same.  Army leadership is not about giving orders, it is about convincing soldiers to want to do what you want them to do.  Over the past 50 years, there have been 26 two-star generals command the 82nd Airborne Division, not counting the current commander or his predecessor.  Four retired with two stars, eight as three stars, and 14 as four-star generals.  That’s the caliber of leader the Army tries to have in charge of the 82nd Airborne Division, and there is a plethora of army generals who have served in the 82nd.  The current command team of Major General (MG) Christopher Donahue and Command Sergeant Major (CSM) David Pitt, arrived in July 2020.

MG Donahue graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, in 1992, the Naval War College, and the US Army War College Fellowship at Harvard University.  After serving as a Ranger Battalion platoon leader and an infantry company commander, he has spent a large part of his career in special operations, commanding everything up to a brigade.  He was assistant division commander of the 4th Infantry Division, Commandant of the Infantry School (Chief of Infantry), Deputy Director for Special Operations and Counter-Terrorism at the pentagon, and most recently Commander, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan.  After a few months in command of the 82nd, he said; “I’ve had some pretty cool jobs, but this is the coolest, by far, hands down.”

MG Donahue interviewed, in the field while talking to troops about suicide prevention, checking on each other.  He said; “COVID has made us a division of strangers, we have to bring everybody back together.”

Sergeants, non-commissioned officers, in the 82nd Airborne Division, often spend their entire career there, minus schools and a couple of special assignments, such as drill sergeant, or recruiting duty.  That creates an unbreakable unit continuity. 

CSM Pitt enlisted in the Army in 1992, and has been a rifleman, team leader, squad leader, platoon sergeant, and first sergeant all in the 82nd Airborne Division, as well as being a drill sergeant at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and an ROTC instructor at Florida A&M.  He was CSM of Fort Polk, Louisiana, Talent Manager in the infantry/armor branch at Human Resource Command, and Sergeant Major of Operations/ Training in the Pentagon.  He is a ranger, and has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Excelsior College.

Things for soldiers to do, on their time off, has been greatly curtailed by COVID.  CSM Pitt has created a weekend shooting range, which he runs.  It is strictly voluntary, with no set times.  All a soldier has to do is notify his or her company, on Wednesday, that they want to draw their weapon on Saturday morning, pick up their weapon and come to the range, when they want to.  It is not only a fun thing to do, but a valuable thing for many support soldiers who don’t get to shoot much, because shooting scores is a big deal in promotion to sergeant.

CSM Pitt’s weekend range has grown in popularity, and is now called the Unbeatable LGOPS Range. LGOPS (Little Groups of Paratroopers)

The 82nd Airborne Division is called the All American Division, also America’s Guard of Honor.  Here is how it achieved those titles.

            ALL AMERICANS;

In 1914, when war exploded in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the United States would be neutral, and history says that the majority of the American people agreed.  In 1915 Germany announced unrestricted warfare against any ship headed for England.  Ships with Americans on board were blown up with mines and torpedoed by German submarines.  In March 1917 Germany sank four United States Merchant ships.  On April 2nd President Wilson called for a declaration of war against Germany.  It was approved by congress on April 4th.

            The Selective Service Act of 1917 or the “Draft Act”, was approved and signed into law on May 18th.  By the end of the war about 4.2 million men had been drafted into the service.  During the summer of 1917, hundreds of thousands of men were drafted into the Army forming new divisions and training as units.  A total of 62 divisions were formed and 42 were shipped overseas. 

The 82nd Infantry Division was constituted in the National Army on August 5th 1917, and filled with all drafted soldiers directly from civilian life to go through training as a unit, and activated on August 25th, at Camp Gordon, Georgia.  When it was discovered that there were soldiers from all 48 states in the division, the Division Commander, Major General Eban Smith, chose the name “All American”, and the AA shoulder patch was created.  The 82nd Infantry Division spent more consecutive days on the front lines in France than any other American Division and suffered 7,422 casualties, including 1,298 killed.  Its’ battle streamers included Lorraine, Saint-Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne.  One of its’ soldiers was the most famous Medal of Honor winner of World War One, Alvin C. York.  The 82nd Division returned to the States in April and May 1919, and was deactivated at Camp Mills, New York on May 27th.


Following the surrender of Germany, in World War II, the 82nd was ordered to Berlin for occupation duty. In Berlin General George Patton was so impressed with the 82nd’s honor guard he said, “In all my years in the Army and all the honor guards I have ever seen, the 82nd’s honor guard is undoubtedly the best.” Hence the “All-Americans” became known as “America’s Guard of Honor.”

That’s the short answer, but there is always more to the story.  What else, besides sharp looking paratroopers was in General George (old blood and guts) Patton’s mind when he said that?

General Patton knew and respected the 82nd Airborne Division, and he knew and respected its commander, Major General James Maurice Gavin, the youngest division commander, in fact the youngest general in the Army, at age 37.  Clay Blair wrote in “Ridgeway’s Paratroopers”; “Gavin was tall and slim (Slim Jim), handsome, soft-spoken, a dedicated athlete and a master in the art of leading men.  He was also dazzlingly brilliant – considered by some to be a military genius.  In conversation, his mind raced at breathtaking speed over such a vast canvas.  Ridgeway later wrote that Gavin was “one of the finest battle leaders and one of the most brilliant thinkers the Army ever produced.”

General Patton may have thought back to his first meeting with the 82nd Airborne Division, when he was commanding the 7th Army during the invasion of Sicily in July 1943.  Two Infantry Divisions were to land on the beaches, led the night before by an 82nd Airborne Division reinforced regiment parachuting inland, in front of the invasion forces, to block the German army from reaching the beaches.  He may have remembered how high winds blew the 82nd’s planes wildly off course, with most becoming lost and dropping paratroops scattered over an area almost 100 miles wide, instead of in front of the invasion forces.  How paratroopers formed together in little groups, cut every telephone line, conducted ambushes and raids, and attacked German convoys and road blocks.  LGOPS (Little groups of paratroopers.)  That was when the Germans discovered that the American paratrooper was a very dangerous adversary. How then Colonel Gavin, carrying an M-1 rifle and leading an engineer platoon, then a battalion attacked Biazza Ridge, with small arms, bazookas, and small modified artillery pieces, against German tanks.  He may have seen Gavin frantically digging a body sized hole, with his helmet, to keep from being crushed by the tanks, but he would have definitely remembered Gavin and his ad hoc band of paratroopers stopping the German armored column at Biazzza Ridge.  James Gavin recalled meeting General Patton, immediately after the Biazza Ridge battle.  General Patton’s first words were; “Gavin you look like you could use a drink.  Here have one”, and handed him a flask.  In spite of starting in complete disaster, the 82nd accomplished all its objectives.

In early 1944, the 82nd was sent to England to prepare for D-Day, but the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) was held to help with the invasion of Sicily at Anzio.  That invasion was met by overwhelming German opposition.  The 504th suffered high casualties, resulting in companies with only 20 to 30 men, but they held, turning it into a static battlefield with trenches, barbed wire, and mine fields between the two sides.  When night came, the paratroopers patrolled and harassed the German positions.  On the body of a German Major, killed at Anzio, was found a diary with the following entry; “American paratroopers – Devils in Baggy Pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line.  I can’t sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next.  Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere…”  That is when the 504th became the “Devils in Baggy Pants”.

General Patton may have remembered how the 82nd Airborne Division was assigned, what some called, the suicide mission of blocking several German Armored Divisions from reaching the Normandy beaches on D-Day, and again being scattered over the area, but accomplishing every objective and stopping the German armor. 

A statement by Major General Matthew Ridgeway, the 82nd Commander, in the After Action Report for the D-Day invasion.

He may have also thought about Operation Market Garden in Holland, where the 82nd accomplished all its objectives, only to be stopped by a superior German force at the Nijmegan bridge over the ¼ mile wide Waal river.  Then sending a battalion across the river, in boats, against German infantry on the far bank, over running the Germans and taking the bridge.  Then spending the next two months fighting the German army on the ground, in Holland. 

Major General Gavin, during the Battle of the Bulge. He always carried an M1 Rifle, as well as his .45 Cal pistol.

The Battle of the Bulge must surely have been on General Patton’s mind, when he was given the mission of stopping the German breakout in December 1944, and the 82nd Airborne Division hurriedly thrown into the battle, succeeded in stopping the main German column. 

General Patton may or may not have known exact figures, at that time, but he knew what divisions did what in the war. There were 73 American divisions engaged in combat during World War II.  The 82nd Airborne Division spent 422 days engaged in active combat, number four out of the 73, and “never lost a foot of ground”.

Early on Thursday morning, August 30th 1945, Major General Gavin wrote a letter to his daughter, Barbara.  He wrote that in about an hour he was having General Eisenhower and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as guests for an airborne division review.  So, in the airborne tradition of never doing anything half way, an honor guard was organized of all combat veterans, with several rows of ribbons, all six feet tall, with spit shined jump boots, with white laces, white parachute silk scarfs around their neck, and chrome plated bayonets on their rifles.

When General Patton uttered those words, that morning, the stands were filled with news reporters, who put the General’s words on wire services around the world, and that is when the 82nd Airborne Division became America’s Guard of Honor.  

The 82nd returned to the United States and led the World War II Victory Parade through New York City on January 12th 1946, before finally returning to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Since World War II, the 82nd Airborne Division has been the United States Military immediate reaction force.  Presidents Truman and Eisenhower chose not to use the 82nd in Korea, but to keep it ready if needed elsewhere.  The 82nd is now the US military Global Response Force, and how it has responded.

Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the first Iraq war 1990, hurricane Andrew, Haiti – Restore Democracy, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, hurricane Katrina, and most recently the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) in Afghanistan, the 2nd BCT in Iraq, and the 504th (Devils in Baggy Pants) deployed to guard the American Embassy in Baghdad. And most recently, when disaster unraveled at the Airport in Afghanistan, a brigade from the 82nd was sent to bring it under control.

Major Christopher Donahue, Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. The last soldier out of Afghanistan.

The sayings like; success begats success, and greatness begats greatness, certainly apply in the 82nd Airborne Division.  There are many young men and women just out of high school, then there are some older paratroopers, like the former high school teacher, I Knew, who had a masters in English, and was also a martial arts expert.  He just wanted the experience, before he was too old.  During the hot part of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the age limit to enlist was raised to 42.  Michael J. MacLeod was 41, with a masters in wildlife biology, and a small publishing company.  He enlisted, spent five years in the 82nd Airborne Division, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  After leaving the service, he wrote “The Brave Ones”.  He was also the military photo journalist of the year in 2012.

Mike MacLeod was a photo journalist, who found himself in a fire fight with the Taliban, while accompanying an infantry patrol in Afghanistan.

  People are attracted to the airborne for various reasons, adventure, excitement, patriotism, and familiarity, such as then combat medic Specialist Terry Bluebird, the first female 82nd Airborne Division Trooper of the Year, in 2015.  Both of Terry’s parents are retired paratroopers from the 82nd.

The former Army moto, Be all you can be, could be used to describe life in the 82nd.  The 82nd is well represented in every Ranger school class.  The troopers who successfully complete the 82nd’s 25 day Small Unit & Ranger Tactics course (formerly called “pre-ranger”) have a significant advantage in completing Ranger school.

 The majority of Green Berets, “grow up” in the 82nd, deciding to go for Special Forces after they make sergeant.  Success in the 82nd is not just in combat arms, there are annual competitions for Best Medic, Best Mechanic, Best Paralegal, and so on.

Paralegal and lawyer winning team of the 82nd Airborne annual “Best JAG” competition.

  In April 2019, the 82nd Support Battalion Dining Facility was named the best in the entire US Army, winning the Philip A. Connelly Award.  The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Dining Facility won it in 2015, and the 82nd Support Troops Battalion in 2010.

Best large garrison dining facility in the US Army.
82nd Airborne Combat Engineer Team wins the Army-wide “Best Sapper”, at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, for the third year in a row.
Specialist Rosas, says she is a paratrooper for life. She compares being an 82nd paratrooper to training for a sport (she is a boxer). She says to be ready tomorrow, you have to train today.
Before every parachute jump, refresher training on exiting the aircraft and landing is conducted, plus the jumpmaster of that jump personally inspects every jumpers equipment.
Applying makeup before a jump means camo.
Specialist Baley Deputy was a Blackhawk helicopter crew chief, who said IN A 2017 Paratrooper for Life video; “I think the biggest thing the  82nd Airborne Division creates in its’ soldiers is professionalism, being a hard worker, and working at a high tempo pace.  We work hard, but we have fun.”
The 82nd Airborne Division Rock Band “Riser Burn” performing.
1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd, conducted a giant unit area wide Halloween celebration for the kids, a couple years ago.
Soldiers get to choose where and how they reenlist. This is an 82nd Airborne Division mechanic reenlisting on the top of his recovery vehicle.

Today the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters is located in Gavin Hall.  Slim Jim Gavin set the standard for airborne officer leadership.  His briefing to new lieutenants, included this; “The officer is the first man out the door, and the last man in the chow line.” Meaning the officer always leads from the front, and never looks after his personal needs, until seeing to the needs of his men.  When saluting a superior officer in the 82nd, the proper greeting is a boisterous “All the Way, Sir” (or Ma am).  The officer answers with a smile and a hearty “Airborne”.

As previously mentioned, I am not suggesting that the rest of the US Army is sub-standard.  It is not.  The command climate problems recently investigated at Fort Hood, Texas, have caused a serious “slap in the face” wake up in the Pentagon.  The culture of the rest of the Army will be changing.  I don’t know how, and I don’t think Army leadership, yet has a full grasp on what changes are necessary, but change is coming.

My message is this.  Whatever MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) (job) you choose, upon enlistment, try to get the airborne option.  Combat arms, with the airborne option, will probably go to the 82nd, possibly (smaller chance) the 173rd Airborne Brigade, in Italy, the most requested assignment, in the Army, or the 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry, in Alaska. 

173rd Airborne Brigade (the Sky Soldiers), in Vicenza, Italy. The US military immediate response unit for Europe.
173rd paratroopers with Alps in the background. And your mother said you couldn’t fly – HA.
4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Anchorage, Alaska.
U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, pull an ahkio sled packed with cold-weather survival gear while training during the Cold Weather Orientation Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center at the Black Rapids Training Site near Fort Greely, Alaska, March 27, 2013. The event helped develop leader skills needed for operating and planning for combat operations in extremely cold environments. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael O????????Brien/Released) Yes, they do jump in Alaska.

There are many airborne support jobs at Fort Bragg, not in the 82nd, but if you are airborne on Fort Bragg, you will wear a maroon beret, which tells the world that you are a professional, a cut above.


When a 40 soldier infantry platoon goes to the field, and always when it goes on an actual combat operation, there are two soldiers attached.  One is a sergeant forward observer (FO), although often a specialist is in the job, and the other is his or her radio operator.  Both are MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 13F Joint Fire Support Specialist.  They are that platoon’s Fire Support Team, called the FIST team.  Often that FO is the most important asset that Platoon Leader has, because that FO knows every big gun capable of reaching his area of operation, including how fast they can fire, what kind of rounds they have and the effects those rounds have on targets.  The FO has at his fingertips, not only mortars and artillery, but also, helicopter gunships, Air Force tactical aircraft, and off shore Navy gun boats.  In the event a unit finds itself outnumbered or surrounded, the FO is the equalizer, who can make it rain fire and steel on the enemy.  The FIST isn’t assigned to that platoon, or that company, or that battalion.  They are assigned to the artillery, but they don’t train and travel with the Artillery, they move with the infantry.  In the field a platoon FO’s boss is the platoon leader.  In light infantry, the FIST team moves with the platoon leader.  In mechanized infantry the FIST team rides in the platoon leader’s vehicle, but during an actual operation, the FIST team will probably be out of the vehicle and in a position to observe terrain and targets.  Platoon FO’s have been known to report valuable intelligence information directly to brigade headquarters.

            When an infantry lieutenant in Afghanistan looks out of his platoon’s night defensive position, at first light, lifts his binoculars and sees about 300 Taliban spread out across the side of the mountain and moving in his direction, he yells “CALL FOR FIRE”!  This is about what he means and to whom he is talking.

Some army jobs are also well paying civilian jobs, especially in the medical and information technology fields.  Most of the jobs, associated with the Army’s primary mission of winning in combat, do not translate to civilian jobs.  Some soldiers will love a particular job while others will hate it, we are all different.  However, in literally every survey conducted in the Army over the past 50 years, soldiers in combat related jobs are happier than those in support jobs.  Overall, combat units have higher morale than support units, and the more elite the unit the higher the morale.  The 82nd Airborne Division is the pinnacle of the United States military preparedness, subject to be called, on a moments’ notice, to run into their unit, draw gear, weapons and ammunition, get on a plane and jump into combat, and because of that mission to always be ready, they train and they train and they train.  They work their butts off.  The 82nd Airborne Division also has the highest morale of any combat division in the Army or the Marines.

An 82nd Airborne Division platoon FO checking assets available to him, before moving out on a patrol in Iraq.

The soldier the lieutenant is yelling for is his Platoon Forward Observer (FO).    This is the first Army job I have researched recently where I found no negative comments.  Absolutely every active and former soldier, who commented, loved the job.  Big guns that rain bombs down on the enemy do not move with the infantry.  They are too big, heavy and cumbersome, and their ammunition is a logistical problem, it is also big.  That is called indirect fire, because it is rarely ever fired within sight of a target.  An infantry company has a few 60mm (millimeter) mortars which have a max range of maybe a mile, are often fired in sight of the target and are slightly larger than a hand grenade.  At battalion level there are 81mm mortars with a range of about three miles, and 120mm mortars with a range of about 6 miles and packs a big punch.  The artillery has the big guns.  It has 105mm Howitzers with a standard range of about 8 miles and can reach out to 10 or 12 miles.  It also has 155mm Howitzers with a range of about 25 miles and a very big punch.  The Army has been building and testing a new artillery piece, called the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA).  On December 19th 2020, at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, an ERCA hit a target dead on the nose, from 43 MILES away.  That is far beyond the reach of any other known artillery, in the world.

Artillery sets up in a secure location well to the rear of the combat area where it can be easily resupplied.  Forward observers are assigned to the Artillery but attached to and move with the Infantry and tell the big guns what to shoot and how.  The FO’s can see the target, they are the eyes for the artillery, mortars, helicopter gunships, tactical Air Force fighter planes, and naval gunfire from ships off shore.  In the past FO’s have carried big loads, consisting of radios, binoculars, maps, compasses and range finders.  It took a lot of clandestine foot travel to get in position to see the target, which many times placed them very close to enemy activity.

All grunts learn to call for fire, in case there are no FO’s around, but what the infantryman learns is elementary compared to the knowledge and capabilities of a trained and experienced forward observer.  Any infantryman with a radio can call for indirect fire support.  He gives the mortars or artillery Fire Direction Center (FDC) a map grid coordinate or a known map location, the FDC plots the position and gives the gun crews settings for the guns.  A spotter round is fired, if it is not on target the soldier calling for fire says “Adjust fire” right, left, up, down and how far.  When a round lands on target he commands “Fire for Effect”, at that time each mortar or artillery piece will fire a salvo of a set number of rounds.  If the observer wants more, he commands “Repeat” and another salvo is fired.

Spc. Jesse Lowe, a forward observer with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, marks coordinates on a map during a patrol with Afghan forces June 14, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Lowe is assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod, RC-East PAO)

The current army 13F is now called a Joint Fire Support Specialist because they also communicate with the Air Force and the Navy.  Forward Observers, as well as most dismounted leaders, carry a PFED (Pocket-sized Forward Entry Device).  A PFED is like a super all powerful, encrypted smart phone, which can send and receive text messages, photos, GPS (Global Positioning System) locations, as well as access various mission applications.  Recently added to the PFED is the Mobile Handheld Fires Application (MHFA), which combined with the GPS capability, utilizes both a laser range finder and a precision fire imagery application to generate a grid coordinate that moves digitally up the fire chain to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS).  AFATDS is the Army’s comprehensive fires planning system that acts as the central hub for a commander’s fire support tactical decision making.  This past year, 2019, the Army started the replacing the Lightweight Laser Designated Rangefinder, used by Forward Observers.  It weighs about 35 pounds and is considered a crew served system.  The new system, the Joint Effects Targeting System Target Laser Designation System, weighs less that 17 pounds, and is faster and more accurate, and can be used in all weather.  Artillery people are excited about it, they say it turns the big guns into giant sniper rifles, guaranteeing precise first round hits.

Soldiers from the 8th Field Artillery Regiment, in Alaska, detect, recognize, and identify a target using the Joint Effects Targeting System Target Laser Designation System. US Army

A couple years ago Forward Observers in the 82nd Airborne Division started utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s).  With the real time video from the UAV’s integrated into the MHFA on their PFED, the FO can see and identify precise targets.

When I was in the Army a first round hit from artillery or big mortars was a combination of skill by everyone involved and a considerable amount of luck.  Now first round hits are common and expected.  That has been a goal in Afghanistan, to reduce peripheral civilian casualties, because the enemy is often mixed in with civilians.

FO’s spend a considerable amount of time in the field (in the woods) which is an attraction for many, because for boonie rats life is better in the woods than in garrison.  But the thing that makes this job so enjoyable for many is almost complete autonomy.  When the infantry goes to the field, at Brigade Headquarters there is a Major and a Captain Fire Support Officers (FSO), plus a Sergeant First Class and two Specialists, at Battalion Headquarters there is a Captain FSO and a Sergeant First Class and two Specialists.  On the ground, moving with the Company Commander, is a Lieutenant FSO with a Staff Sergeant, a Specialist, and a Private First Class (PFC) and with each 40 man rifle platoon is a Sergeant (authorized but usually actually a Specialist), and a PFC radio operator.  With all the modern computerized technology, someone still has to carry a paper map, a compass and a radio.  These 13F’s are assigned to the Artillery but they are not with the Artillery, they are with the Infantry which makes them pretty much on their own.  As a Platoon Sergeant and as a First Sergeant I never told my FO team to pull guard duty, help load vehicles or any plain labor jobs, as long as they took care of themselves and were always available I was happy with them.

One former forward observer wrote; “It was the best experience I’ve ever had earning money.  You’re the red headed step child of the infantry and the artillery.  But everyone forgets how important you are until you are needed, in that moment you’re the most important thing in everyone’s life, you make the earth spin and the flowers grow.”  Another said, “All good, loved every minute of it.”  A retired Master Sergeant Forward Observer wrote; “There you are, on a hill top, looking at an enemy position that is within range of your artillery battalion (which is behind you) calling for fire on that target.  You are most likely communicating digitally, but there is still some type of energy being used, which creates heat, which is visible to thermal imaging devices.  Once your artillery fires a few rounds, the enemy Counter-Battery fire team will be looking for YOU, so you better be long gone after you say ‘FIRE FOR EFFECT’.”

The ASVAB requirements for 13F are a test score of 93 in the field artillery (FA) aptitude area. The subtests for this area include arithmetic reasoning (AR), coding speed (CS), mathematics knowledge (MK) and mechanical comprehension (MC).   A Secret security clearance will be required.  The AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is 10 weeks and 4 days long at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  Recent graduates say that it is a lot more laid back than basic, but you’re still a trainee.  The barracks are three or four man rooms.  Some have two double bunks, some have one double and one single.  There are closets instead of wall lockers, and a bath room.  A typical day in 13F AIT goes something like this;  0500 – wake up, 0530 – room inspection, 0545 PT Formation and PT, 0700 – shower, clean up, get in uniform, 0730 breakfast, 0900 Class time, 1200 Lunch, 1300 – back in class, 1630 Dinner,  1900 – final formation, cleaning until 2000, 2200 – lights out.  Weekends;  0600 – wake up, 0630 formation for breakfast, then cleaning until 0900 – sign out for passes (on post),until 2030, lights out at 2200.  There is a PX with a food court, a bowling alley, a gym, and a library close.

With the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), PT will be fairly heavy.  This is a combat job, so the physical demands are significant.  The Fisters are not infantry, but are part of the infantry, in the field.  There are now female FO’s.  There are female infantry. I don’t recommend it, but some women want to do that.  A recent female 13F AIT student said; “We had to drag a 271-pound dummy for 15 meters (about 50 feet) within three minutes.  We broke it down, so the first 10 seconds we drag and the next 20 seconds we rest, so we pretty much had one minute to drag the dummy.”

The first females to graduate from 13F AIT in February 2017.

There will probably be a 12 mile road march, with rucksack, the first week.  The first week and a half is land navigation.  Some say it is just like land nav in basic, you run the course with a paper map and compass, and find your points.  Then you use the DAGR (Defense Advanced GPS Receiver), which, if you enter the coordinates correctly (buddy’s check each other), it will take you directly to your point.  13F’s must be experts at land navigation and locating themselves and targets on various terrains.  The second week starts the Call for Fire procedure.  13F’s must also be expert communicators, and voice call for fire is a very methodical and organized process.  That learning starts in the classroom on a computer simulator, and progresses to the field, where they call actual live artillery rounds.

Soldiers in their third week of 13F AIT working through a lesson plan.

I tracked a young man, who graduated from high school in June 2012.  In October 2012, he shipped to basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, graduating in December.  After Christmas he reported to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for MOS 13F AIT, graduating in February 2013.  From there he went to Fort Benning, Georgia for Airborne School, graduating in March 2013.  He then reported to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  He was promoted to Specialist after about a year.  Around the end of 2015, with about three years in the Army, he was promoted to Sergeant.  He went home and married his high school sweetheart in March 2016.  From July 2016 to February 28th 2017, he was with his Brigade in Iraq kicking ISIS out of Mosul.  Their son was born February 1st 2017. Which he was able see on a live feed.  In June 2018, with less than six years in the Army, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.  In 2020, he was accepted into the army’s Warrant Officer Flight Training (WOFT) program.  He completed Warrant Officer Candidate School, was commissioned a Warrant Officer, and as of this writing is in Flight School learning how to fly helicopters.


This story replaces “Band”, published a couple years ago.

Enlisting in the military can open many great opportunities, for young people, but this particular endeavor is different from all others.

Seventh and Eighth Graders and High School Freshmen, who are starting in music, starting is the hardest part. It is something new, learning the basic steps of your instrument and basic music reading, but as you gain skill (practice a lot), you start really making music. Then it becomes FUN.

Band (music) is an elective in high school. The National Association for Music in Education list 20 benefits of studying music in school. It is also a skill, that not everyone possesses, and its’ FUN. For some, it could be the most important class they take in high school, because you could make your living, the rest of your life, just playing music. If you are in high school, in the band, you love music and love playing in the band, you could do that for a living, in the military.

If you are in an Army band, that is your primary duty. All you do is play music. You are still a soldier, you do PT (Physical Training) every weekday, you qualify with your rifle at least once a year, you have a PT test at least once a year, and you go through the gas chamber once a year, and you attend the same professional development schools every other soldier attends to get promoted, and you get promotions at about the same speed as other support jobs in the Army, but your duty that you perform every day is playing music. Within each Army band there are various ensembles, woodwind, brass, jazz, rock, etc.

An example of the schedules of the 399th Army Band at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and the 82nd Airborne Division Band at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Some part of them performs about every day. On Friday, the 399th Army Band Bugler might be at Gammon Field for the start of the Engineer Run, and at 6:00PM the jazz combo, fife, drum and bugler would be performing at the Engineer Regimental Ball. On that day, at 11:00 AM the brass quintet of the 82nd Airborne Division band will perform at the “Volunteer of the Quarter Ceremony”, at Hall of Heroes on Fort Bragg, at 6:30 PM, the jazz combo will perform at Movie in the Pines, Town Park, in Southern Pines, North Carolina, and at 7:00 PM, the rock band will perform at the “4th Friday Dogwood Festival”, at Festival Park in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Army bands travel.

399th Army Band Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
399th Army Band in concert with the Missouri University of Science and Technology Band
82nd Airborne Division Band in concert
82nd Airborne Division Rock Band the Riser Burn

Riser Burn performing in Fayetteville, North Carolina

101st Airborne Division Rock Band The Big Five

US Army Field Band Woodwind Quintet

All branches of the military have bands. The US Army has 15 regional bands in the continental United States, plus one in Alaska, one in Hawaii, one in Korea, one in Germany, and one in Japan. There are also four “Premium Bands”, The United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own), The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, The United States Army Field Band, and the West Point Band. Competition to get into one of the premium bands is tough, they are the pros of the pros.

The United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own)

The Navy has nine bands in the US, one in Hawaii, one in Italy, and one in Japan. The Marines have eight bands in the US, one in Okinawa, and one in Hawaii. The Air Force has eight bands in the US, one in Germany, and one in Japan. The Air Force is much tougher to get into, because they send their music people directly to a band after basic training, whereas the Army, Navy and Marines send their musicians to music school after basic.

The process for getting into an Army Band is first see an Army Recruiter. First you must be eligible to join the military, height, weight, physical and medical condition, and ASVAB (Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery) test, and nothing derogatory in your background. If you are 13 or 14, and are not yet too overweight, don’t get that way. Being overweight is one of the biggest military disqualifiers. One of the things that puts a lot of weight on many young people, is soft drinks. Pepsi and Coke, and all related drinks are heavy with sugar. Find a tasty zero calorie water, they make all different tastes, and they don’t put on the weight.

There is serious competition to get into an Army Band. Many new music major college graduates go into the Army, but many high school graduates are also accepted, every year. Depends on how good you are.

The recruiter will contact the closest Army Band Music Audition Coordinator, who will contact you and request that you submit a recording and a performance resume as soon as possible. If the Audition Coordinator believes that you have the musical talent to be in an Army Band, he will tell the recruiter to “qualify you”. Then you take the ASVAB, a physical assessment test, a physical exam, plus have your medical records reviewed to see if you can enlist in the Army. When you are qualified, the recruiter will notify the Audition Coordinator that you can enlist.
The Audition Coordinator will then contact you to schedule an audition. The audition would probably be at your school, or a location convenient for you, they will come to you rather than have you go to them. That is not the case with the other services. The audition will consist of four areas; 1 – Ceremonial Music, the coordinator will send you a packet of ceremonial music to be prepared prior to your audition. 2 – Prepared Music, that is your time to show off, you should prepare at least three selections of contrasting styles to emphasize your technical, musical, and stylistic ability. These selections can be excerpts from classical solo repertoire, concert band or orchestra literature, or jazz/pop standards. You may ask the Coordinator for suggestions. 3 – Music Preparation, this portion of the audition judges how well you can quickly prepare music in the event you were called to sub on a gig with short notice. The evening prior to your audition, your coordinator will send you a packet of various styles. You will be responsible for preparing the music by your scheduled audition time. 4 – Additional Skills, Army Bands value additional skills that musicians bring to their organization. You may receive additional points on your audition if you choose to demonstrate any of the following; doubling, singing, or improvisation. You should ask your coordinator what would be appropriate.

The instruments are; Cornet/Trumpet, Baritone/Euphonium, French Horn, Trombone, Tuba, Flute/Piccolo, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Saxophone, Percussion, Keyboard, Guitar, and Electric Bass. The conductor of the audition will use a US Army School of Music Form to grade your audition. Your audition will be given a numerical score which will be reported to the School of Music, the Human Resource Command, and your recruiter. An audition is good for 45 days. You must either enlist or contract into the Future Soldier Program (it used to be called the Delayed Entry Program), within that time frame. If you elect a delayed program of 90 days or less, the Army Bands Senior Career Advisor will negotiate a unit-of-choice with you, in other words, you can pick your band, if there is a vacancy, if you go over 90 days you will be assigned according to the needs of the Army, in other words, no choice of where you may be assigned.

Because of COVID-19, auditions may now be performed remotely. That process may be started online at goarmy.com/band/auditions. Also, after the audition, all who have auditioned, with the same instrument, will compete for positions. Top score getting top slot.

I have seen pictures of high school bands playing with masks lowered, I have also seen some playing with split masks. Hopefully, you are able to keep up your practice, during COVID.

Basic training, is basic training, Infantry, Artillery, Armor, Combat Engineers, and Military Police have their own basic, everyone else goes through basic together at Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, or Fort Benning, Georgia. Army Basic Combat Training is as tough now as it has ever been, since World War II. It is not harassment it is just physically and mentally tough training, to convert you from civilian to soldier. You may be a musician, but you’re still a soldier. After 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training, band people will attend the 10 week AIT (Advanced Individual Training) US Army School of Music at Virginia Beach, Virginia. That is Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 42R, with a skill identifier according to your instrument. The school consists of small groups of 4 or 5 students with an instructor/mentor. There is lot of one on one private instrumental instruction, as well as music theory, sight singing and ear training, and group instrumental techniques. The primary mission of the school is to produce professional musicians.

When the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the band also deployed. They played for the troops. The rock band which was formed from within the 82nd Airborne Division Band, “The Riser Burns”, was the most popular with the troops, and would sometimes fly to three locations a day to perform for the troops. Bands do go to war, but they don’t fight, they play music. The Army has protected its’ music people since the Revolutionary War, because bands are good for morale. About everybody appreciates music, and those who are good at it.

On Tuesday, the 22nd of May, 2007, the 82nd Airborne Division Band’s Woodwind Quintet, “The 5 Knot Winds,” once again traveled to HQ ISAF in Kabul. This time they were accompanied by the band’s show band “Level 82.” The group had five performances throughout the week. The main highlights from the trip included performances for the ANA band, Camp Phoenix, The US Embassy, HQ ISAF Christian Concert and a Memorial Day Ceremony.

Army musicians have a high reenlistment rate. What better job than to play music for a living. What do you make, in the Army? While in basic training and AIT, after deductions, you will have about $1,400 per month deposited in your bank account. Divided in half and paid twice monthly. By the time you get to your band, most soldiers are promoted to PFC (Private First Class) about that time, your take home pay will be about $1,650. Plus, you’re living free. You share a suite with a roommate, each has their own bedroom and share a bath and kitchen, and eat free in the DFAC (Dining Facility). At around 18 months in service, most make Specialist E-4, which makes the take home over $1,800 per month, and that includes contributing 5 percent of your base pay to a Thrift Savings Plan, which the government matches. The TSP can be rolled into an IRA, or 401K, when you leave the service. When you go over Two years, the pay goes to about $1,900 per month. A Sergeant (SGT) with over three years makes about $2,100, after deductions. How about a married Staff Sergeant (SSG), over six years, living off post, that’s about $4,500 per month, take home, plus health care for the family is free. A married Sergeant First Class (SFC) over 10 years, living off post takes home about $5,400 per month. Throw in the free health care, what you and the government are contributing to a Thrift Savings Plan, and all the other benefits of being a soldier, and that SFC is making the civilian equivalent of about $100,000 a year. Plus, most all of the SFC musicians I found had accumulated at least a bachelor’s degree in music, during their time in the Army. Some already had their masters, by that time.
Many musicians, who make a career of the Army, become warrant officers around mid-career, thereby becoming band leaders and directors.

Imagine this, play music for the Army for 20 years, retire at age 38, with a bachelor’s degree (at least) in music, an immediate monthly retirement check of around $2,000, almost free health care (about $550 per family, per year until age 65, then it is completely free), plus a few hundred thousand dollars in the government Thrift Savings Plan. You would have the experience for about any job in the music industry, and you would be highly qualified to teach music in any school.

If this sounds interesting, take high school band seriously.


The Army says it has over 150 different jobs, but some are not real jobs.

How do you choose a job in the Army? The short answer is do a lot of research and talk to a lot of people about what you think you might like. What you choose and are accepted for is what you will be doing, for the duration of your enlistment. There are hundreds of youtube videos about many Army jobs. Some are produced by the Army as advertisement, but there are also many by individuals and units. Search for forums and comments online, read the pro and the con.

Here are some thoughts that I hope helps. First, I’ll try to define army “job”. The Army advertises that it has over 150 different jobs. That’s true, but some are real jobs and some are not. When two soldiers, who have never met, and aren’t in uniform, strike up a conversation, one asks, “What do you do?” The other answers, “I’m an eleven bravo.” The other comes back with, “I’m a thirteen fox, work with you guys all the time.” Each now knows exactly what the other does, but neither has a real “job”, as in going to work at it every day. A “job” in the Army is an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). The first answer, eleven bravo, means 11B Light Weapons Infantryman, the second, thirteen fox, is 13F Joint Fire Support Specialist, which is a forward observer for artillery.
Combat Arms, infantry, artillery, armor, combat engineers, and air defense artillery, don’t go to their “job” in the morning, after physical training (PT). They go to training. What ever that may be that day. The combat arms trains for combat. Infantrymen can study reaction to an ambush, but they can’t train for it until they get ambushed, in the field (in training), they can study company in the attack, but they can’t train for it until they are in the field, facing thick under brush, trying to figure how to be quiet and get in position.

Infantry platoon moving to a live fire exercise

Infantry testing for the Expert Infantryman Badge

Artillery and Air Defense Artillery may be doing crew drills, to reduce their set up time, in the field.

Photo Credit: Spc. Ariel Solomon Soldiers serving with Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, shoot a round down range from their M777A2 howitzer on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2014. The round was part of a shoot to register, or zero, the howitzers, which had just arrived on Kandahar Airfield from Forward Operating Base Pasab. The shoot also provided training for a fire support team from 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

Artillery live fire.

Armor (tanks) may be on a tank range, firing tables, and Combat Engineers may be training on breeching (blowing holes in) obstacles.

Sometimes tankers get to play.

Combat Engineers breeching an absticle.

Support soldiers (those not in combat arms) go to their “job”, in the morning, after PT. Mechanics, medics, truck drivers, welders, computer specialists, supply specialist, and the list goes on, all go to their “job”.
So, first think about what you like to do, and what you don’t like. If you love being outside, maybe hunting and fishing, or just camping, hiking, and exploring, maybe you like to play sports, and you don’t like having to stay inside, you may want to take a good look at combat arms. Combat Arms soldiers have consistently polled as happier than support soldiers. If you don’t mind working inside, maybe you like brainy stuff, and maybe you like helping people, there are many different jobs from which to choose.

Here is something else to consider. How fast are promotions, in what jobs. Enlisted advancement, in the Army, is fairly automatic up to Specialist, pay grade E-4. Enlistees with a bachelors’ degree, or a civilian acquired skill, such as a certified welder, may enlist as a Specialist E-4, all other, non-prior service recruits enlist as a Private E-1. There are two pay grades within E-1, one for under four months of service, and the other about $100 more for over four months. Advancement to Private E-2 is automatic at six months, but can happen at four months. That’s a couple hundred dollar raise. Promotion to Private First Class (PFC) E-3, which is another $100 raise, officially comes at a year, but can happen at six months. A young woman, just out of high school, from our town, enlisted to be a Parachute Rigger, MOS 92R. In basic training, she found her calling, ended basic as the platoon guide of her 50 soldier platoon. In the thirteen week 92R AIT (Advanced Individual Training), she was promoted to PFC, as soon as she made the six month mark, and ended as the top graduate of her AIT class. Because she was the Distinguished Honor Graduate, she was assigned to the US Army Special Operations Command. Smart, hard working people move faster.
Promotion to Specialist E-4 comes, officially at two years, but can be waived back to 18 months. Most good soldiers make it at around 18 months. The next step is promotion to Sergeant. Promotion to Sergeant is a big deal, in the Army. The difference in prestige, courtesy, responsibility, and ego between Specialist E-4, and Sergeant E-5 is large, plus a pay raise.

Sergeant US Army

Promotion to Sergeant E-5 and Staff Sergeant E-6 is in a primary zone or a secondary zone. The primary zone for Sergeant E-5 is 36 months time in service and 8 months time in grade, but the secondary zone, for exceptional soldiers, starts at 18 months service and 4 months in grade. Yes, you are eligible to be recommended for promotion to sergeant, shortly after making specialist. There are other requirements, such as a correspondence course and a leadership course. Weapons qualification scores, physical training scores, and civilian education are big items that are considered in promotion to sergeant.

Here is where the job comes into play. Some Army MOS’s have a much larger requirement for sergeants than others. The most numerous MOS in the Army is 11B, the infantry. An infantry squad, led by a Staff Sergeant, consists of two four soldier teams, each led by a sergeant. Hard chargers, in the infantry, are making sergeant at around two years in service. Want to know more about the infantry, see my story, “I AM THE INFANTRY – FOLLOW ME”.

Armor– Tank crewman, MOS 19K, is in that same category. Every four man M-1 Abrams Tank crew is commanded by a sergeant. See my story, “US ARMY ARMOR – BE A TANKER”. Combat Engineers, are also in this group, MOS 12B. I have two stories, “ARMY COMBAT ENGINEERS”, and “COMBAT ENGINEERS”, about those soldiers. Another in this category is MOS 13F Joint Fire Support Specialist, see my story “CALL FOR FIRE”.

13F Forward Observers. The red headed step child of the Artillery and the Infantry. They are assigned to the Artillery, but move with the Infantry.

Another MOS in which exceptional soldiers are being promoted fast is MOS 74D CBRN Specialist (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear). See my story, “CBRN – ENLIST AND BE A SERGEANT IN TWO YEARS”. Every company both combat and support has a 74D sergeant.

CBRN training.

Here are some support jobs, that are also fast promoters. MOS 12Y Geospatial Engineer, see my story “GEOSPATIAL ENGINEER”. MOS 17C

Army Geospatial Engineer at work.

Cyber Operations Specialist, this is a Top Secret job for real computer guru’s, see my story “COMPUTER HACKER”.

Another support job, currently making sergeant in around two years is MOS 35F Army Military Intelligence Analyst, see my story “ARMY MILITARY INTELLIGENCE ANALYST”.

If you’re set on being a mechanic, a truck driver, a medic, a human resource specialist, or a whatever, by all means hold out for that job. But, I caution you to thoroughly research the job you think you want, to see what those soldiers actually do, in the Army.


Paralegal at work.

I encourage anyone considering enlisting in the Army to consider the “Airborne Option”, jumping out of airplanes. Those units have higher morale than non-airborne units. What?? You’re afraid of heights?? So are hundreds of paratroopers. Don’t look down.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, February 20th 2019.

Military Intelligence – what image does that phrase create in your mind? Really smart people? Soldiers studying maps of enemy movements? James Bond or a Tom Clancy character? The Army has an enlisted MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) called Military Intelligence Analyst, MOS 35F. It requires a Top Secret security clearance, and in the words of some soldiers in that job, they get to see and do some really cool stuff.
So what does an Army Military Intelligence Analyst do? He or she collects information from all sources, aerial photos, satellite images, reports from human intelligence collectors, reports from the field. Intercepted radio transmissions or cell phone conversations, prisoner of war interrogations, and news reports and many other sources, and puts it together to try to determine what an enemy or a terrorist cell is doing and what it is planning to do. For a commander to make a decision to commit soldiers to combat, he has to have information about the enemy. What is the enemy doing, where is the enemy and what is he planning? That is the job of the intelligence analyst.

Army Military Intelligence Analyst – MOS 35F

America’s military secrets are classified and compartmentalized into sections that are only available to people who have a need to know that particular information. Potential enemies, and some supposed friends, have vast complex organizations whose missions are to find our secrets, just as we have the CIA. The security classifications are Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret, and then there are probably 20 categories and special compartmentalization’s above Top Secret. I had a Top Secret clearance when I was assigned to the Communications Center of US Army Europe Headquarters, but I had to be processed for Special Category (SPECAT) clearance before I could go into the center and go to work. We were all being processed for SI (Special Intelligence) clearances when I left that job. Having the security clearance doesn’t get access to everything. You have to have a “need to know”. Officially there is no “Above Top Secret” clearance, however there a couple of categories that really are above a Top Secret clearance. There is SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) and SAP (Special Access Programs). Engineers may have a critical need to know certain technical components of a project, but have no need to know the purpose or scope of the entire project, and the fewer people who know the whole scope the less chance for leaks to foreign agents.

Intel analyst at work.

Army Military Intelligence Analysts can’t talk much about their job, because most of what they do is classified.
Bradley Manning was an Army Military Intelligence Analyst MOS 35F. After his training he was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. That Brigade deployed to Iraq in late 2009. Manning worked as an analyst in the S2 (Intelligence) Shop of Brigade Headquarters at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Hammer, near the Iranian Border. He was promoted to Specialist and after a few months his immediate supervisor, the S2 NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in charge) recommended him for an Army Achievement Medal. That recommendation is now public information. It reads; “Achievement #1 – SPC Manning worked as the night shift Violent Extremist Analytical Team lead. In this capacity, he assisted in the Brigade Commander’s better understanding the Promise Day Brigade in Zafraniyah. His research and efforts led to the identification of the structure in which this particular group conducted operations and how they targeted United States Forces. His research greatly assisted the subordinate unit with accurate information that led to the disruption of the organization. Achievement #2 – SPC Manning’s persistence led to the disruption of Former Special Groups (FSG) in the New Baghdad area. SPC Manning’s tracking of targets led to the identification of enemy support zones that were previously unknown. His analysis led to heavy targeting of insurgent leaders in the area. This effort consistently disrupted their operations. SPC Manning’s dedication led to the detention of a Tier-2 level FSG individual within the Command OE. Achievement #3 – SPC Manning labored to unravel the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures of the enemy smuggling lines from Iran into Command OE. SPC Manning identified key routes that were being utilized as well as support zones that aided in the transportation of explosively-formed penetrators (EFP’s), Katyusha rockets and various small arms. His analysis aided subordinate units in their plans to disrupt these operations and minimize the flow of these systems in to Baghdad. Achievement #4 – SPC Manning was instrumental in assisting the Brigade S2 and S3 plans sections in regards to mission analysis. SPC Manning produced 20 products for three briefings on topics including enemy situation, future enemy operations and current threat assessments. SPC Manning’s in-depth analysis of the areas he covered provided the Brigade S2 and S2 Planner vital information required to lead ground forces to successful mission accomplishment.”
That is the job of an Army Military Intelligence Analyst MOS 35F. That is now public information because Bradley Manning was personally a little off center. He was openly gay, which caused some inter office friction. He punched another soldier and was reduced to Private First Class (PFC), fined 7 day’s pay, restricted to the company area and given 14 days extra duty. In the course of his duties, he saw a film of an aerial attack on civilians. It was a mistake, a telescopic camera lens was mistaken for a weapon, but it flipped a switch in Manning, he started gathering everything he could find that could be damaging to the United States in Iraq. As an analyst in Iraq he had access to a tremendous amount of information. He had combat videos and photos and after action reports and literally hundreds of thousands of classified communications between headquarters’ and Embassies. He contacted WikiLeaks and dumped it. A hacker found his transmissions and reported him. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but President Obama commuted his sentenced to seven years. He is now goes as she Chelsea Manning.

It is normally desk work, but it is much more that pushing papers. In Intell shops the enlisted people do the analyst work and many of the briefings. The officers are more involved in scheduling, meetings, and advising the commander. I once heard the Division G2 tell the Chief of Staff that he wanted to brief him on some real world work they were doing. The Colonel said: “Great, who do you have working on that?” The answer – Smith and Jones. Colonel – “Good bring them along.”

Intel analyst briefing his commander.

For someone who enjoys mysteries, puzzles that require complex construction, and has a logical deductive thought process, this could be a really neat job. You can be assigned to about any Army post or overseas area. There are analysts’ in the headquarters of combat battalions, brigades, divisions, corps and armies. There are also separate Military Intelligence companies, battalions and brigades.

Intel analyst briefing on his findings.

The AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for 35F is 16 weeks long at the US Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. That is at Sierra Vista, AZ southeast of Tucson, and southwest of Tombstone, about 20 miles from the Mexican border. All Army intelligence courses are taught there. The city population of Sierra Vista is about 45,000, but the metro population of the area is about 135,000. Army Intelligence people like the post and rave about the beauty of the area. The AIT is very relaxed compared to basic training. Students are marched to and from class, chow, and PT, but they are off when the day is over and off on weekends. Hiking in the mountains overlooking the school is apparently popular with AIT students. It is apparently so relaxed that many cautioned others about getting in trouble. Some said your homework is classified so you have go to study hall, but emphasized “do go to study hall”, and always ask questions.

The requirements to enlist for MOS 35F are an ASVAB score of 105 in the ST (skilled technical) area. The following tests comprise the ST area; Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, General Science, Mechanical Comprehension and Mathematics Knowledge. I would strive for a score in the 120’s in ST and GT (General Technical) (English and math). Must never have been a member of the Peace Corps, no criminal record except minor traffic violations, and be able to be cleared for a Top Secret clearance, i.e., squeaky clean.

And what are the jobs outside the military that are available to a person with this training and experience? Actually many, FBI, CIA, DEA, ATF, Border Patrol, Homeland Security and others, plus state and large city police use intelligence analysts. This is a very unique skill.

As a November 2020 update to the original story, it has also been a fast promotion job for the past several months, with soldiers making sergeant in two to three years.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, on October 23rd 2019
If you are familiar with the terms, HTML, Javascript, SQL, PHP, Perl, C, C++, Python, Ruby, Java, Lisp, and Assembly Language, or maybe you are not familiar with those terms, but would like to get into computer science, engineering, or technology at a fairly high level, and you don’t want to spend four years in college just to get a beginner job, this is something you may want to consider. Basic computer operation is the electronic storing of information by the presence of ones and zeros, something is there or it is not, but the technology has and is still advancing on a level almost incomprehensible to most of us. The Army needs computer hackers, and it is creating them.

From the end of World War II until a couple years ago, the military was turtle slow in making any change or in obtaining new things. The Army is filled with really smart, good people, and its leadership the past few years has turned around that slow process mentality. Cyber war is here – now. The United States started creating cyber operations units 10 years ago, and has since been cyber attacked by foreign countries and we have conducted our own offensive operations. Two years ago, the Department of Defense created the United States Cyber Command. It is an independent four star unified command collocated with the National Security Agency (NSA). Its’ commander is also the Director of the NSA. Its official mission statement is; To direct, synchronize, and coordinate cyberspace planning and operations to defend and advance national interests in collaboration with domestic and international partners. In other words, not only stop hacking attempts, but go on the offensive in cyberspace. The US Army Cyber Command, the US Army Intelligence and Security Command, the Navy Fleet Cyber Command, the Naval Network Warfare Command, the Air Force Cyber Command, and the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command all fall under the US Cyber Command.

Cyber warriors on the attack.

In May 2018 I wrote about new Army MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialties) 17C Cyber Operations Specialist and 17E Electronic Warfare Specialist, and in April 2019 I posted it on lifeinthearmy.com. Things are changing – fast.
Around four years ago, the Army created MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 17C – Cyber Operations Specialist, and up until a couple years ago only active duty soldiers in the ranks of Specialist through Master Sergeant, could apply for that MOS. They had to have a Top Secret security clearance and be very computer savvy. For the past couple years, the Army has been recruiting enlistees for MOS 17C.
If you are in high school or already out and a computer junky, and not yet reached the age of 34, but college is not in your immediate future, consider enlisting for this MOS. It requires a five year enlistment, it also requires a Top Secret security clearance, which means your background must be squeaky clean, minus a minor traffic ticket.
First, for any job in the Army, is basic combat training (BCT). BCT is the most radical environmental change many young people will experience. No telephone, no access to telephones until after a few weeks. Communication with family and friends is by letter. It is 10 weeks long, it is physically hard, stressful, and in the words of many graduates, a lot of fun and a great experience.
17C candidates attend Phase I, which is the six month long Navy Joint Cyber Analysis Course (JCAC) at Corry Station (Pensacola), Florida. After JCAC the 17C candidate then attends Phase II, a 20 week Army Cyber Operations Specialist Course at Fort Gordon, Georgia. JCAC is attended by all services, then like the Army, the Air Force and the Marines teach their own courses. The Army Digital Defense Service hired an outside firm, General Assembly, which is a worldwide high tech education company that, much like the Army, teaches basic, corps technology – no electives or ‘nice to have’ classes, to set up and conduct the Army’s own Phase I 17C course. The pilot course, with 10 students, ran from January to April 2019, twelve weeks, not six months. Those 10 were placed alongside JCAC graduates for Phase II, with no noticeable difference in knowledge or performance. The plan was for 17C AIT to be about six months long and all at Fort Gordon. Apparently that didn’t work, or COVID-19 interfered, because Phase I is still listed as JCAC at Pensacola.

In October 2019, there was a ground breaking ceremony on Fort Gordon to construct a new ultra-modern cyber training facility. Some buildings will be demolished, four new constructed and seven renovated. The first facility will be a classified building, that is scheduled to open in fiscal year 2022. The Commanding General of the Cyber Center at Fort Gordon said; “The networks that go into it will allow us to do training at a level that is just far and above what we do today, and in a domain that is so dynamic like cyber, being able to train in that environment is absolutely critical.”
As far as security is concerned, this job is on a level above that of special operations. There is no enlistment bonus for this MOS. Everything about it is Top Secret. Who enlists for 17C, who is in training, and who is in the operational units is classified. So, the Specialist or Sergeant 17C does not get to come home and tell what he or she does in the Army. These are cyberspace shadow warriors. Some 17C assignments qualify for up to $300 per month special pay. Promotion to Sergeant is very fast. Very good operators are making Sergeant in 24 to 30 months.

University of West Florida grants 30 semester hours toward a bachelor’s degree in computer science to graduates of JCAC. Universities and colleges represented at Fort Gordon have not yet advertised the credit they give for the 17C AIT course, because it is new, but I would expect about the same credits. Enlist for five years for 17C, and by the time you are finished with training, you have a year of college. Anyone, in this job, should be able to complete their bachelors by the end of a five year enlistment.
At the end of that five years, the Army has been offering an $81,000 reenlistment bonus to Staff Sergeants who will reenlist for six more years, because the Army is competing with the civilian world that pays these people big salaries.
So, how does someone become an Army Cyberoperations Specialist? See an Army Recruiter. The Army Recruiters office in Rolla, Missouri has as professional a staff of Sergeants as you will find. The first question from a recruiter is, do you have a high school diploma, the second is, have you ever been in trouble with the law. When you tell the recruiter that you want to be a cyberoperations specialist, his normal process changes a little, he or she will want to know a lot about your background. The job requires a Top Secret clearance, be absolutely honest about everything. You will be given a practice ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test there in the recruiting office, if you score high enough then the conservation will turn to your background and high school. How much algebra did you take and how were your grades? Computer programming requires a logical thought process, like IF – THEN – ELSE, if this is present then that is the result, else another is the result, much like X + Y = Z. The ASVAB test requirements for MOS 17C are the highest for any MOS. The requirement is a score of 110 in General Technical (GT), which is comprised of tests in word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, and arithmetic reasoning, and a score of 112 in Skilled Technical (ST), which is comprised of also word knowledge and paragraph comprehension, plus general science, mechanical comprehension, and mathematics knowledge. To be competitive for this job, those scores should be in 120’s.
After an OPAT (Occupational Physical Assessment Test), background checks, and medical clearances to determine that you are qualified to enlist in the military, you go to MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station) in St Louis, where you take the ASVAB for record, contract for MOS 17C, and be sworn in to the Army. At that point, you sit down with a counselor and fill out SF Form 86, Application for (a Top Secret) Security Clearance. Print that form out back at home and fill it out by hand and take it with you to MEPS. It asks for a lot of information that you may not know. Whatever anyone tells you, do not fail to list everything and do not lie on that form – that is a felony. A Top Secret clearance usually takes about six months to complete, it helps if you haven’t moved around much. An investigator will interview you. You will be given a polygraph (lie detector) test. Investigators will interview your school teachers, your neighbors, your preacher, your co-workers, and the local Marshall and Sheriff. Once the investigation has started and the application looks OK, an Interim Top Secret may be awarded so the 17C candidate can start the course, but he or she cannot graduate until the final clearance has been awarded.
Soldiers in this job can obtain literally dozens of certifications from national and world wide computer technology and security organizations, including Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) from the International Council of Commerce Consultants.
If this really interests you, this is could be a great opportunity.

A look at what real life is in the Army, not what is portrayed in movies